Tissue-engineered human organs – the next generation of treatments for chronic heart diseases – will soon become a multi-billion dollar medical market according to an analysis by the research and consulting firm GlobalData.
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But research is still in early stages and a long way from meeting regulatory approval. A team in Spain is currently building on the pioneering work of Dr Doris Taylor at the University of Minnesota, USA, who was able to develop a lab-grown beating rat heart in 2010, by implanting human stem cells into a rat heart scaffold which served as a blueprint for the stem cells to follow.
Dr Francisco Fernandez-Aviles and his team in Madrid are looking at bioengineering replacement human body parts, working to grow a human heart. They have already grown early-stage valves and patches that could one day be used to repair tissue damaged by heart attacks, and hope to produce a working heart in the next five to six years. A bioreactor will provide oxygen and nutrients to the growing organ and remove waste products, and blood will be pumped through the organ to mimic circulation in the human heart. Electrical connections in the heart will also be modelled, with a pacemaker generating electrical activity.