In 1967 Dr Christiaan Barnard made history when he performed the first ever human heart transplant in South Africa. Now, researchers from Osaka University in Japan have expanded on that history by successfully transplanting a lab-grown heart muscle into a human patient.
Instead of transplanting an entirely new heart, researchers grew the part of the heart that needed transplanting. They achieved this by taking induced Pluripotent Stem cells (iPS) and reprogramming them back into their most basic, embryonic-like state.
At this point, the team of researchers were able to manipulate the cells into whatever they wanted them to be. In this case, a much needed human heart muscle. The iSP cells were then placed onto a small, degradable sheet which the researchers positioned over the damaged areas of the patient’s heart.
In the case of this patient, who remains unnamed, they suffer from a heart condition called ischemic cardiomyopathy. A condition in which a person’s heart can’t efficiently pump blood through the body because its muscles don’t receive enough blood, either due to genetics, a heart attack, or disease.
The patient is currently recovering in hospital and will be monitored for the next year. If all goes well and the patient fully recovers, this procedure could be a viable alternative to conventional heart transplants, as creating iSP cells are much easier then finding a suitable donor and funding the operation, which can be out of reach for the everyday person.