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Stem cells produce heart valve

2nd April 2007

Pioneering British scientists have successfully grown artificial heart components for the first time.

artery1

The team at Harefied hospital consider their work to be the gateway to growing entire organs from stem cells which could revolutionise surgical procedures.  Their work is so significant because this is the fist time anyone has actually managed to grow heart tissue that acts in the same way as authentic human heart valves.  Leading researcher Sir Magdi Yacoub said he hopes his artificially grown heart elements could be used in cardiac transplants within three years; he also hopes to be able to grow entire organs from stem sells within a decade.  "It is an ambitious project but not impossible,? he said.

Stem cells have proven to be so groundbreaking for scientists because they are able to mutate into many types of cell.  Previous teams have grown cartilage, bladders and tendons.  Growing heart cells is a major step forward as cardiac tissue is so much more complex.  The Harefield team included physicists, pharmacologists, clinicians and cellular scientists who spent 10 years on the work.

Sir Magdi’s team hope their research will eventually address the shortage of donated heart valves and his research has been wholeheartedly supported by the British Heart Foundation.  A spokesperson said, “This opens the possibility that whole parts of the heart may be made in the laboratory from the patient's own stem cells." Heart disease is the UK’s biggest killer claiming over 200,000 lives every year.


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