Engineering the heart piece by piece

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Some day, heart attack survivors might have a patch of laboratory-grown muscle placed in their heart, to replace areas that died during their attack. Children born with defective heart valves might get new ones that can grow in place, rather than being replaced every few years. And people with clogged or weak blood vessels might get a new "natural" replacement, instead of a factory-made one.

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These possibilities are all within reach, and could transform the way heart care is delivered, say University of Michigan Medical School researchers in the new issue of the journal Regenerative Medicine. Technology has advanced so much in recent years, they write, that scientists are closer than ever to "bioengineering" entire areas of the heart, as well as heart valves and major blood vessels.

But hurdles still remain before the products of this tissue engineering are ready to be implanted in patients as replacements for diseased or malformed structures, the team notes. Among the hurdles: determining which types of cells hold the most potential, and finding the best way to grow those cells to form viable cardiac tissue that is strong, long-lasting and structured at a cellular level like natural tissue.

The new article reviews the current state of cardiac tissue engineering, both at the

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