Lab heart pumps researchers up
Minnesota team uses scaffold, cells to make a beating rat organ
By Lawrence K. Altman | New York Times News Service
January 14, 2008
Medicine's dream of growing new human hearts and other organs to repair or replace damaged ones received a significant boost Sunday when University of Minnesota researchers reported success in creating a beating rat heart in a laboratory.
Experts not involved in the project called it "a landmark achievement" and "a stunning" development. But they and the Minnesota researchers cautioned that the dream -- if it is ever realized -- was still at least 10 years away.
Doris Taylor, the head of the team that created the rat heart, said she followed a guiding principle of her laboratory: "Give nature the tools, and get out of the way."
"We just took nature's own building blocks to build a new organ," Taylor said of her team's report in the journal Nature Medicine.
The researchers removed all the cells from a dead rat heart, leaving the valves and outer structure as scaffolding for new heart cells injected from newborn rats. Within two weeks, the cells formed a new beating heart that conducted electrical impulses and pumped a small amount of blood