Miniature human hearts that beat of their own accord have been grown in the lab using stem cells.
The tiny hearts are just 1 mm in diametre and contract at around 30 beats per minute, according to researchers at Abertay University in the UK. They have been developed specifically to find a cure for heart hypertrophy — a form of heart disease that can lead to sudden death.
Although healthy to begin with, the scientists are using chemicals to simulate the physiological conditions that will make the hearts hypertrophic — enlarged, due to abnormal growth of the cells that make up the heart (cardiomyocytes). Once diseased, the hearts are then treated with newly developed medications to see if they can prevent the damage from occurring. “Although human hearts have been grown in labs before, this is the first time it has ever been possible to induce disease in them,” said Professor Nikolai Zhelev, who is leading the research.