First Lab Grown Heart Muscle Transplant

Last week, Medical researchers at Osaka University in Japan have for the first time successfully transplanted lab-grown heart cells into a human heart, in what may be a major breakthrough for cardiovascular healthcare.

The scientists grew the cells by altering adult stem cells back to an embryonic state, after which they were able to modify them into becoming heart cells. From there, they placed the cells on small biodegradable sheets, which were then applied to a defective human heart.

Yoshiki Sawa of Osaka University’s medical school said the transplant was conducted in a clinical trial to study the treatment’s effectiveness and safety in a patient with serious heart failure. It is hoped that the transplant of iPS cells will serve as an alternative to a heart transplant, which has been the only option for treating heart failure.

To grow the heart muscle cells in the lab, the researchers turned to induced pluripotent stem cells otherwise known as iPS. Researchers are able to take those iPS cells and make them into any cell they want. In this case, it was heart muscle cells.

“I hope that (the transplant) will become a medical technology that will save as many people as possible, as I’ve seen many lives that I couldn’t save,” Sawa was quoted at a news conference reported the Japan Times. As for the patient, the team plans to monitor him during the next year to ascertain how the heart muscle cells perform. The researchers opted to conduct a clinical trial instead of a clinical study because they want approval from Japan’s health ministry. In the trial studies, a sheet of heart muscle tissues made from stem cells is transplanted onto the affected areas of the heart.

It is not yet clear if the transplant was ultimately successful. The patient who received the transplant will be monitored for the next year.  If all goes well, the researchers hope to conduct the same procedure on nine other people suffering from the same condition within the next three years.

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