The tell-tale heart: 'beating' human heart muscle created from stem cells

Friday, 17 March, 2017

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Australian and German scientists have created a functional ‘beating’ human heart muscle from stem cells, in a breakthrough that will enable them to study cardiac biology and diseases ‘in a dish’.

The study was led by Dr James Hudson and Dr Enzo Porrello, from the University of Queensland’s (UQ) School of Biomedical Sciences. According to Dr Hudson, the technology provides scientists with “viable, functioning human heart muscle to work on, to model disease, screen new drugs and investigate heart repair”.

The technology has already been utilised by the UQ Cardiac Regeneration Laboratory, whose scientists discovered that the immature tissues have the capacity to regenerate following injury.

“In the laboratory we used dry ice to kill part of the tissue while leaving the surrounding muscle healthy and viable,” Dr Hudson said.

“We found those tissues fully recovered because they were immature and the cells could regenerate — in contrast to what happens normally in the adult heart where you get a ‘dead’ patch.

“Our goal is to use this model to potentially find new therapeutic targets to enhance or induce cardiac regeneration in people with heart failure.”

UQ scientists create ‘beating’ human heart muscle from The University of Queensland on Vimeo

The UQ research has been supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and the National Heart Foundation. Heart Foundation Queensland CEO Stephen Vines said the charity was excited to fund such an important research project.

“Heart attack survivors who have had permanent damage to their heart tissue are essentially trying to live on half an engine,” Vines said.

“The research by Dr Hudson and Dr Porello will help unlock the key to regenerating damaged heart tissue, which will have a huge impact on the quality of life for heart attack survivors.”

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