A cure for broken hearts is on the horizon, as US scientists say they will soon be able to grow new human hearts in the laboratory.
The University of Washington (UW) in the north-western United States announced that it will lead and coordinate a $10-million, 10-year effort to grow a human heart using a patient's own cells.
The bioengineering project, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), will involve nearly 50 scientists working at nine UW laboratories, along with five other laboratories in private industry and at the University of Toronto.
"This is a sort of mini-Apollo mission," said Buddy Ratner, director of the UW's engineered biomaterials center and lead investigator for the project.
"Their goal was to walk on the moon in 10 years. We also have an exciting goal to grow a human heart ventricle."
Heart disease accounts for more than one-third of all deaths in the United States, where only 2,300 hearts are available for transplants each year. That means some 50,000 people who meet the strict criteria for
transplants die each year due to a lack of available organs.
"This is going to change medicine," said Margaret Allen, a UW heart transplant surgeon and participant in Ratner's project. "We'll use a patient's own cells to prevent them from ever needing a heart transplant."