Scientists at The University of Queensland have taken a significant step forward in cardiac disease research by creating a functional “beating” human heart muscle from stem cells.
Dr. James Hudson and Dr. Enzo Porrello from the UQ School of Biomedical Sciences collaborated with German researchers to create models of human heart tissue in the laboratory so they can study cardiac biology and diseases “in a dish.”
The patented technology enables researchers to now perform experiments on human heart tissue in the lab, which provides scientists with viable, functioning human heart muscle to work on, to model disease, screen new drugs and investigate heart repair.
The UQ Cardiac Regeneration Laboratory co-leaders have also extended this research and shown that the immature tissues have the capacity to regenerate following injury.
In the laboratory, researchers used dry ice to kill part of the tissue while leaving the surrounding muscle healthy and viable. They found those tissues fully recovered because they were immature and the cells could regenerate — in contrast to what happens normally in the adult heart where you get a “dead” patch.
The researchers hope to use this model to potentially find new therapeutic targets to enhance or induce cardiac regeneration in people with heart failure. Studying regeneration of these damaged, immature cells will enable researchers to figure out the biochemical events behind this process.
Each year, about 54,000 Australians suffer a heart attack, with an average of about 23 deaths every day.
According to researchers, heart attack survivors who have had permanent damage to their heart tissue are essentially trying to live on half an engine. The research will help unlock the key to regenerating damaged heart tissue, which will have a huge impact on the quality of life for heart attack survivors.