Tiny lab-grown heart beats on its own

By August 21, 2013Healthcare

Screen Shot 2013-08-21 at 14.57.09Scientists in the University of Pittsburgh have grown a tiny heart that beats on its own.

The researchers took a mouse heart from which everything had been removed but the basic structure and laid onto it cardiovascular cells developed from human induced stem cells. The human cells specialized into endothelial (or lining) cells, smooth muscle cells and muscle contractile cells. The resulting heart beat on its own and responded to medications.

The beat was irregular and the heart was small so there is still a long way to go before lab grown hearts can replace human transplants, but the day when we will be able to is clearly getting closer. Heart disease is the world’s biggest killer and it is technologies like this will enable radical life extension, most likely in our lifetimes.

Interestingly, most people say they don’t want to live much longer. Assuming no degradation in quality of life I am all up for living much longer. There is so much to do.


  • Keshav Malani

    This is an incredible feat and clearly has great implications.

    I only recently learnt that a transplanted heart ‘never’ functions at 100%, it never matches up perfectly so you are limited in what you can do, for e.g. extreme exercise, etc. But maybe with this you can use an individual’s cells to make a heart that perfectly matches them.

    But do our discoveries in these areas also enable our unhealthy lifestyles? Doesn’t it make it an easy fix to just ruin your body and then get a new one? Or is that even a bad thing?

  • That is a very interesting question. I guess that if/when we get to the point where everything in the body can be replaced with 100% working transplants in painless procedures then looking after our bodies ceases to be a worthwhile thing to do.

  • Thinking about it staying fit might make more pleasant even if body parts can be transplanted.

  • Keshav Malani

    It does sound more appealing to me as well but it takes effort – which is what we can’t seem to be able to do already as a society even at the moment.

    Furthermore, the convenience of not caring because a replacement is available is creating (will create) a precedent for lack of self control which would surely transfer to other parts of our lives.

    This, I am realizing now is on the side of the rhetoric that we haven’t fully realized the implications of tech on humanity yet. But don’t get me wrong – I absolutely love tech! 🙂

  • Good news on the road to longer lasting good health and longer, quality lives.

    It is likely we will discover that if only cost-wise, looking after our bodies and health will save money and time. A car well maintained tends to be a more reliable tool, a computer occasionally purged and oft-protected, the same! For human bodies being in a top operating range is ideal, so best to prolong “service and parts replacement intervals”.

    I say Live Long and Prosper! There is I agree, much to do. Much to enjoy. Much to create.

  • James Penman

    Fyi: ‘Miniature ‘human brain’ grown in lab’: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-23863544

  • I saw this. Almost blogged it. Thanks James.

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