New Stem Cell Research Moves Towards Creating New Organs From Scratch
By Brookes Merritt, Edmonton Sun, January 16, 2008
The creation of human organs out of thin air like a scene out of a sci-fi movie may not be as far off as we think according to local heart experts who are quick to point out new American research.
Dr. Jason Dyck and Dr. John Mullen of the Mazankowski Heart Institute are calling the research conducted by experts at the University of Minnesota ground breaking. The scientists at Minnesota were able to regrow a rat heart and bring it back to life.
The U.S. researchers first scrubbed out the inside of the heart, leaving just a husk by utilizing a process called de-cellularization.
Within days the new organ was grown from scratch. Stem cells from healthy newborn rats were used to re-cellularize the “scaffold” heart.
The scientists were able to get the heart to beat with and ejection fraction (efficiency) of 2%.
"(Non-embryonic) stem cell therapy and tissue regeneration is a major research focus (at the Mazankowski). We want to be players in this game, leaders even," said Dyck, 39, scientific director of cardiovascular research at the institute.
A similar scaffolding to hold cells in place is being developed by Edmonton researchers.
"But it's not on the same scale as this. We're working with small grafts, not entire organs."
The future of organ transplantation will be significantly effected by the breakthrough, said Mullen, who is a heart surgeon.
Between two six-hour heart surgeries, Sun Media spoke with the 49-year-old director of Alberta's heart transplant program.
"I just put a pig's valve into a patient's heart to replace a mitrovalve; it should last about 20 years. This new research means that one day we could grow a new human valve from the patient's own cells. It would last even longer and there would be essentially no risk of rejection."
He said that re-cellularization research is especially promising for transplants but that the technology is still 15 to 20 years away from clinical applications.
"The number of people who need heart transplants far exceeds the number of hearts available. The ultimate goal of this type of research would be to grow entirely new organs for people."
Making new tissue patches, and other smaller applications are likely to be the focus for now.
“You could see surgeons replacing scar tissue on an organ like the heart with actual cells that beat and grow into heart muscle tissue.”
“The prospects are thrilling. We'll be keeping a close eye on the research.”