Heart transplantation is plagued by difficulties, specifically by lack of organ availability and by the immune rejection once the organ has been implanted. To overcome these issues, researchers at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis have created hybrid hearts using decellularised heart scaffolding from one rat and populating it with stem cells from another.
The result you can see in this video:
From the NewScientist:
The idea is fairly simple: take an organ from a human donor or animal (see image), and use a mild detergent to strip away flesh, cells and DNA so that all is left is the inner “scaffold” of collagen, an “immunologically inert” protein. Add stem cells from the relevant patient to this naked shell of an organ and they will differentiate into all the cells the organ needs to function without inducing an immune response after transplant, or any new infections.
The idea has already worked with simple organs. Last year Claudia Castillo received a transplant made a stripped-down windpipe from a dead human donor. Researchers cut it to size and seeded the scaffold with her stem cells, which grew into the right tissues and gave her a new windpipe. Anthony Hollander of the University of Bristol, UK, a member of the team, says Castillo no longer needs to take drugs and is back at her job.
Taylor’s team is using the same technique to create much more complex organs such as hearts, and extending it to using animal, as well as human, scaffolds.
More from the NewScientist…
Image: Decellularised pig heart