In Madrid, Spain, Dr. Francisco Fernandez-Aviles and his team at the Gregorio Maranon hospital are trying to grow a living human heart in a lab.
This would be the next step in the ever-expanding bioengineering field, which has already been able to grow organs various organs in labs, reports the Wall Street Journal.
In 1999, Anthony Atala, director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C., placed lab-grown bladders into children with severely dysfunctional bladders.
University College London researcher Dr. Alex Seifalian transplanted lab-grown tear ducts and an artery into patients. Dr. Seifalian also made an artificial nose that will be transplanted into a man who lost his nose to skin cancer.
Dr. Seifalian is also making cardiovascular body parts. He plans to transplant a bioengineered coronary artery into a person later this year.
In 2011, Dr. Seifalian made a windpipe from a patient's cells. It was used to replace the cancerous windpipe of the patient, saving his life.
Unlike patients who get organ transplants, people who get lab-built organs won't have to take anti-rejection drugs for the rest of their lives, because the bioengineered organs are built with the patients' own cells.
The key to all the lab-built organs are stem cells, found in human bone marrow, fat and elsewhere. Stem cells can be transformed into other tissues of the body.
Until the late 1980s, few believed it would be possible to make human organs because it was a struggle to grow human cells in the laboratory.
Dr. Aviles said he hopes to have a working, lab-made of the human heart ready in five or six years, but the regulatory and safety rules for putting a heart into a patient will be high.
Dr. Aviles and his team have already grown early-stage valves and patches that could be used some day to repair tissue damaged by heart attack.
Source: Wall Street Journal