Is it possible to mend a broken heart? Researchers writing in the journal Nature Medicine this week report that they've been able to build a beating rat heart in the lab. It's not entirely artificial, however. The researchers used detergent solutions to wash away cells from an existing heart, leaving behind the noncellular 'matrix' material that forms a scaffolding for the heart tissue. They then inserted a mixture of fresh cells into that bare scaffolding, and the cells repopulated that framework to form a beating heart. The new heart is weaker than an ordinary heart, but the researchers hope that the technique could one day be used to help grow replacement organs for patients needing heart transplants. We'll talk with one of the scientists on the project about how it works and the road ahead for the technique.
Produced by Karin Vergoth