Researchers grew a mini human heart to study fetal heart development

The organoid will help scientists study conditions like congenital heart disease.

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Michigan State University's lab-grown mini-heart model
Michigan State University

A team of scientists have grown a miniature human heart model. They hope the organoid will help them better understand fetal heart development and defects like congenital heart disease. 

The Michigan State University researchers used adult stem cells and a method that mimics embryonic and fetal development. They were able to generate a functional mini heart, complete with chambers and vascular tissue, in just a few weeks. This allowed them to watch, in real time, the growth process of a fetal human heart.

They’re now using the method to model and study congenital heart disease. While they’re still perfecting the process, the researchers believe these human heart organoids could be used to study other cardiovascular conditions, like chemotherapy-induced cardiotoxicity and the effects of diabetes on the developing fetal heart.

“These minihearts constitute incredibly powerful models in which to study all kinds of cardiac disorders with a degree of precision unseen before,” said MSU professor Aitor Aguirre, the senior author on a paper detailing the research.

There’s a lot of interest in growing and printing human hearts. Researchers from Chicago to Tel Aviv have printed 3D hearts from patient-derived cells, and researchers in Japan have transplanted lab-grown heart tissue into a human heart.

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