Lab-grown heart cells implanted into human patient for the first time
In what is a world-first and potentially the dawn of a new medical technology to treat damaged hearts, scientists in Japan have succeeded in transplanting lab-grown heart cells into a human patient for the first time ever. The procedure is part of a cutting-edge clinical trial hoped to open up new avenues in regenerative medicine, with the treatment to be given to a further nine patients over the coming years.
The clinical trial harnesses the incredible potential of induced pluripotent stem cells (IPSCs), a Nobel Prize-winning technology developed at Kyoto University in 2006. These are created by first harvesting cells from donor tissues and returning them to their immature state by exposing them to a virus. From there, they can develop into essentially any cell type in the body.
Professor Yoshiki Sawa is a cardiac surgeon at Osaka University in Japan, who has been developing a technique to turn IPSCs into sheets of 100 million heart muscle cells, which can be grafted onto the heart to promote regeneration of damaged muscles. This was first tested on pigs and was shown to improve organ function, which led Japan’s health ministry to conditionally approve a research plan involving human subjects.
The first transplantation of these cells is a huge milestone for the researchers, with the operation taking place earlier this month and the patient now recovering in the general ward of the hospital. The sheets are biodegradable, and once implanted on the surface of the heart are designed to release growth factors that encourage new formation of healthy vessels and boost cardiac function.
The team will continue to monitor the first patient over the coming year, and over the next three years aims to carry out the procedure on a total of 10 patients suffering from ischemic cardiomyopathy, a condition caused by a heart attack or coronary disease that has left the muscles severely weakened.
“I hope that [the transplant] will become a medical technology that will save as many people as possible, as I’ve seen many lives that I couldn’t save,” Sawa said at a news conference on Tuesday, according to The Japan Times.
Source: The Japan Times