Scaffolding Gets Scientists Closer to Growing a Heart

Biodegradable frame supports stem cells, may pave way for creating whole organs
By Katherine Thompson,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 3, 2008 10:09 AM CST
The stages of the creation of a rat "bioartificial" heart, is shown in this photo provided by the University of Minnesota. Researchers have   (AP Photo/THE CANADIAN PRESS/ HO - Thomas Matthiesen - University of Minnesota in Minneapolis)
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(Newser) – Scientists have developed a biodegradable scaffold on which heart tissue can be grown in the lab, possibly paving the way for the creation of whole organs, the Independent reports. In the meantime, the goal is to produce living patches for mending damaged hearts. The flexible polymer matrix ensures growing cells all align the right way, and dissolve within months.

The MIT and Harvard researchers have successfully created patches of rhythmically contracting cardiac muscle from rat stem cells. It will take some work to build up human heart muscle thick enough to be useable, and to develop heart valves and other organs. Scientists could also test new drugs on synthetic tissue, thus sparing would-be lab animals from undergoing experimental treatments.