The new technology could reduce the risk of rejection when it comes to the new organ transplant in a patient's body.
People with severe heart disease require heart transplantation, but unfortunately these patients have to wait for a long time for a donor heart.
Now, researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital have taken a major step towards creating a bioengineered human heart that could one day solve this problem. Researchers have stripped away muscle cells in a heart and rebuilt it with new skin cells.
This revolutionary technology allows heart tissues to be built with the patient’s own cells, reduces the need for matching the donor heart with recipient and also the risk of patient’s body rejecting the new organ.
“Generating functional cardiac tissue involves meeting several challenges,” said lead researcher Jacques Guyette. “These include providing a structural scaffold that is able to support cardiac function, a supply of specialized cardiac cells and a supportive environment in which cells can repopulate the scaffold to form mature tissue capable of handling complex cardiac functions.”
Researchers tested this technique first on rats and large animals’ organs and then on human hearts. The procedure involves clearing out living cells on heart with a detergent solution and rebuilding them with appropriate types of cells.
For the research, 73 human hearts were obtained from New England Organ Bank. These hearts were deemed unsuitable for transplantation and were given away for research purposes.
Researchers decellularize those hearts and got rid of not just muscle cells but also human leukocyte antigens that could instigate rejection. Then, researchers used a new method for growing tissues. They reprogram skin cells with messenger RNA factors instead of conventional genetic manipulation. Researchers induced the pluripotent cells to grow into cardiac muscles cells, which developed into contracting tissues after several days in culture. Lastly, the heart was placed in a bioreactor with a nutrient solution and stressors that reproduced the conditions which are required by a real heart to operate. The outcome was significant but certainly not where researchers wanted it to be.
“Regenerating a whole heart is most certainly a long term goal that is several years away. So, we are currently working on engineering a functional myocardial patch that could replace cardiac tissue damaged due a heart attack or heart failure,” said Guyette.
“Among the next steps that we are pursuing are improving methods to generate even more cardiac cells – recellularizing a whole heart would take tens of billions – optimizing bioreactor based culture techniques to improve the maturation and function of engineered cardiac tissue and electronically integrating regenerated tissue to function within the recipient’s heart.”
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The study was published in Circulation Research.