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Researchers Aim to Grow A Human Heart Within the Decade

Update Date: Mar 25, 2013 01:48 PM EDT
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Advances in technology have opened up several new and exciting possibilities in science. A new surgical method using catheters to repair heart defects allows patients to opt out of open-heart surgeries, according to new research into the method. Technology and research did not stop here of course as the Wall Street Journal reports that researchers from Spain might be able to recreate the human heart and implant it into live patients within the next decade. Current technologies have allowed researchers to manufacture bladders and windpipes and transplant them into patients, and now, new hearts might also be able to be created.

Current research using stem cells to create human organs is known as bioengineering. Bioengineering allows researchers to take certain stem cells from the body and influence them to grow into certain desired body parts and organs. The researchers have used several techniques in their quest to create the human heart. One of the leading techniques involves building a scaffold, which acts as the underlying structure of the organ. When the scaffold is created, either through cartilage, collagen, natural resins, and fibers, it makes it easier for the scientists to use the stem cells and shape them around the scaffold. The scientists would take stem cells from another part of the human, such as the bone marrow, and control their growth into whatever organ the scaffold was made for.

The researchers are using this scaffolding technique in their attempt to create the human heart, which would ideally be used for transplants. Although this technique has been successful for other organs, it has taken longer for human hearts because of the importance of this organ. The heart is extremely vital and if the manufactured heart does not live up to expectations, the patient's survival rate decreases significantly. Furthermore, the heart is a lot harder to replicate due to the complexity behind the organ. The heart is responsible for a lot of different roles within the body, all of which must be functioning properly in the manufactured heart. However, the researchers announced that they have gotten really close to successfully creating a human heart and expects one to be made within the next five years.

The first ever successfully organ replication occurred in 1996 at a North Carolina lab. The research team at the time grew a human bladder and paved the way for future man-made bladders that have been used to replace diseased ones in live patients. Now, the team from Spain is optimistic that a fully functional heart can be made and implanted into a live patient within a decade. If they achieve this goal, the future for organ transplants will change forever. 

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