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Researchers to grow hearts for transplant

By Vision Reporter

Added 11th December 2007 03:00 AM

Transplantable hearts grown in petri dishes and the regeneration of amputated limbs were once things of science fiction. But a major breakthrough brought those dreams closer to reality recently after researchers announced they were able to turn the clock back on skin cells and transform them into st

Transplantable hearts grown in petri dishes and the regeneration of amputated limbs were once things of science fiction. But a major breakthrough brought those dreams closer to reality recently after researchers announced they were able to turn the clock back on skin cells and transform them into st

Transplantable hearts grown in petri dishes and the regeneration of amputated limbs were once things of science fiction. But a major breakthrough brought those dreams closer to reality recently after researchers announced they were able to turn the clock back on skin cells and transform them into stem cells, the mutable building blocks of organs and tissues.

While the research is still in its infancy, the potential benefits are “tremendous” said Lanza, who has already found ways to cut the death rate following heart attacks in half, restore blood to limbs which would otherwise have to be amputated and construct a functioning kidney using stem cells.

The use of skin cells will eventually allow doctors to create stem cells with a specific patient’s genetic code, eliminating the risk that the body would reject transplanted organs.

It also will lead to a virtual explosion in the availability of research materials used to test new drugs and understand how diseases like cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s function.

That is because stem cells are able to infinitely replicate themselves and can be turned into any of 220 different types of cells in the human body. But access to stem cells has been restricted because of the complications, both ethical and technical, of harvesting human embryos.

The technique, while far from perfected, is so promising that Ian Wilmut, the man who cloned the world’s first sheep, Dolly, is giving up his work cloning embryos to focus on stem cells derived from skin cells.

AFP

Researchers to grow hearts for transplant

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