There may come a time when doctors can patch up your damaged heart not with fancy futuristic materials, but with your own skin. A paper recently published in the European Heart Journal details the work of a team of Israeli scientists who took sample skin cells from two patients — aged 51 and 61 — with heart problems. For the first time ever, they were able to transform the skin cells into healthy, beating heart cells.
According to team leader, Lior Gepstein, the resulting cells were "equivalent to the stage of [the patient's] heart cells when he was just born." After forming heart tissue out of the erstwhile skin cells, the scientists cultivated it in a petri dish with real heart tissue.
The researchers found that after 24 to 48 hours, the man-made heart tissue merged with the real sample — the whole thing was even beating. They then implanted the hybrid tissue into healthy rats whose little rodent hearts accepted and formed connections with it.
While the results sound extremely promising, it would take a long time before the technique can be used in hospitals to save lives. Scientists believe that it could take as much as 10 to 15 years before clinical trials on humans even begin. But if this method proves to be effective, then we don't have to rely purely on mechanical devices or transplants to cure advanced heart diseases anymore.
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