Heart decellularisation

The heart of rock and roll is still beating.. (Huey Lewis & the News)

What if I told you that scientists have found a way to bring to life an animal cadaver heart so that it can beat - giving the possibility of a new source of donor hearts for humans. You'd probably tell me that I'm crazy.

Well, I would agree with that statement (that I'm crazy), but reseachers at the University of Minnesota have proven that they can bring an animal heart to life - through the process of decellularisation. (AFP)

In this process, all the cells from an organ -- in this case the heart of a dead rat -- are stripped away using powerful detergents, leaving only a bleached-white scaffolding composed of proteins secreted by the cells.

In the experiments, this matrix was then injected with a mixture of cells taken from newborn rat hearts and placed in a sterile lab setting, where the scientists hoped it would grow.

After only four days, contractions started, and on the eighth day, the hearts were pumping, according to the study, published in the British journal Nature Medicine.

The thought of using animal hearts in humans kind of freaks me out a little bit. But, according to the article, 50 thousand Americans die each year waiting for a donor heart. Plus, 22 million people worldwide live with the threat of heart failure.

This experiment is just that - an experiment. I really doubt that any practical application will come of this. I know that we already use bio-artificial hearts - kind of. I mean, I have a handful of patients with bovine prosthetic heart valves. But, would people accept an entire animal heart, even if through decellularisation? Or, would people say "Be Still My Beating Heart?" (Sorry for the Sting reference)