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Tuesday, April 3rd 2007

Stem Cells Lead To Heart Valve


So Long Lifelong Antithrombotic Therapy??

A British team grows a human “heart valve,”

Sir Magdi Yacoub, a professor of cardiac surgery at Imperial College London, has worked on ways to tackle the shortage of donated hearts for transplant for more than a decade. His team at the heart science centre at Harefield hospital have grown tissue that works in the same way as the valves in human hearts, a significant step towards the goal of growing whole replacement hearts from stem cells.

Currently, many people suffering from heart valve disease have artificial replacement valves. Though they save lives, the artificial valves are far from perfect. They perform none of the more sophisticated functions of living tissue, children need their valves replaced as they grow, and patients need a lifetime of drugs to prevent complications after surgery.

By using chemical and physical nudges, the scientists first coaxed stem cells extracted from bone marrow to grow into heart valve cells. By placing these cells into scaffolds made of collagen, Dr Chester and his colleague Patricia Taylor then grew small 3cm-wide discs of heart valve tissue. Later this year, that tissue will be implanted into animals – probably sheep or pigs – and monitored to see how well it works as part of a circulatory system.

If that trial works well, Prof Yacoub is optimistic that the replacement heart tissue, which can be grown into the shape of a human heart valve using specially-designed collagen scaffolds, could be used in patients within three to five years.

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