A breakthrough has been made in custom-built organs. Researchers at University of Minnesota have developed a beating heart in their laboratory that could give doctors one day to make a range of organs for transplant from scratch.
The study, based on rats and pigs, is highly experimental and is unlikely to be applied to humans for years, say the scientists.
However, Professor Doris Taylor, director of the university's centre for cardiovascular repair, believes it could be a significant step towards creating custom-built hearts, blood vessels and other organs for people with serious illness.
The major plus point of such an approach is that organs so built would utilize stem cells taken from the patient, so the body's immune system would not reject them.
"The idea would be to develop transplantable blood vessels or whole organs that are made from your own cells. It opens a door to the notion that you can make any organ - kidney, liver or pancreas. You name it and we hope we can make it," Times Online quoted Taylor, as saying.
For the study, the researchers used a process called decellularisation, wherein powerful chemicals strip the cells from a dead animal heart.
The researchers then reseeded the remaining protein skeleton with progenitor cells taken from the hearts of newborn animals and let them grow.
Taylor said that four days after seeding, the cells could be seen contracting, and after eight days the hearts started contracting.
Harald Ott, study's co-author said: "We took nature's building blocks to build a new organ. When we saw the first contractions we were speechless."
The finding was reported at the American Heart Association's recent annual meeting in Orlando, Florida.