Building A Heart

Credit: Zhen Ma, UC Berkeley

Credit: Zhen Ma, UC Berkeley

Stem cell research carries with it a great deal of hope for the future, but the field is immensely challenging and progress can at times be slow. In a positive step for the field however, recent research has been able to grow a small, beating heart from stem cells. 

When tissue and organs are formed cells differentiate through a mass of specific chemical signals, but actual physical spacing and placement also seems to guide their development through things like contact with their local environment and gravity. In this study, by using a growth medium on a circular patterned surface, the slight textural and geometric differences were able to encourage different types of cardiac tissue to form and eventually create small chambers which began beating. 

Besides from growing new organs for patients with damaged tissue, this method also enables testing of drugs on organ formation and better establishing toxicities. The researchers here also tested thalidomide on the tissue and found it inhibited growth in comparison, suggesting that these kinds of models could provide a platform for better drug safety. 

Read more at PopSci