Scientists Create The First-Ever Functioning Mini Human Heart Model

Scientists Create The First-Ever Functioning Mini Human Heart Model

Researchers from Michigan State University have created a miniature human heart model in the laboratory for the first time and it is complete with all primary heart cell types and a functioning structure of chambers and vascular tissue.

In the US, about 647,000 Americans die from heart disease each year, that’s 1 in every 4 deaths, making it the reason for most number of deaths.

“These mini hearts constitute incredibly powerful models in which to study all kinds of cardiac disorders with a degree of precision unseen before,” said Aitor Aguirre, the study’s senior author and assistant professor of biomedical engineering at MSU’s Institute for Quantitative Health Science and Engineering.

This study, “Generation of Heart Organoids Modeling Early Human Cardiac Development Under Defined Conditions,” appears on the bioRxiv preprint server.

The team at MSU created the human heart organoids by way of a novel stem cell framework that is similar to the fetal developmental environments.

“Organoids, meaning ‘resembling an organ’, are self-assembling 3-D cell constructs that recapitulate organ properties and structure to a significant extent,” said Yonatan Israeli, a graduate student in the Aguirre Lab and first author of the study.

The technique deploys a process in bioengineering that induces adult cells from a patient to trigger embryonic-like heart development in a dish, generating a functional mini heart after a few weeks. The stem cells are obtained from consenting adults and therefore free of ethical concerns.

“This process allows the stem cells to develop, basically as they would in an embryo, into the various cell types and structures present in the heart,” Aguirre said. “We give the cells the instructions and they know what they have to do when all the appropriate conditions are met.”

With this process, researchers could study the natural cardiac embryonic development process in real-time. Before this, the lack of access to a developing heart was a major problem in studying fetal heart development.

What’s next in this research? There are two things.
1. First, to look into the nuts and bolts of how a fetal heart develops.
2. Second, while the human heart organoids is complex, it is far from perfect. For the team, improving the final organoid is another key avenue of future research.

Journal Reference:
Yonatan Israeli et al. Generation of Heart Organoids Modeling Early Human Cardiac Development Under Defined Conditions, bioRxiv preprint server (2020)

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