Yesterday we discussed the idea of 3D-printed organs. Though that technology is developing fast, it’s still far from any practical applications. Another solution for the shortage of organs, would be xenotransplantation. However that approach has it’s own differences, namely the risk of (hyperacute) rejection. Genetically engineered pigs have been studied as a solution of this problem, but this only counters hyperacute rejection. A third option is to combine xenotransplantation with tissue engineering. In this process a pig organs is decellurized so that only the structure of that organ is left. Subsequently tissue from a patient are placed on this structure, and with as final result an organ which will not rejected by the recipient’s body.
Here’s a treat for Valentine’s Day (in addition to this playlist of TED Talks about love): Below, take a close-up look at a decellularized “ghost heart.” This heart can serve as a scaffold upon which to grow a working heart from human stem cells. Researchers at the Texas Heart Institute created it by stripping all the living cells from a pig heart with a soap solution, which bursts the cells and leaves only the protein structure behind. These scientists have successfully implanted tissue-engineered hearts into rats and pigs so far. They hope ultimately to create personalized human hearts and help relieve the shortage of donor organs.
Behold, the “ghost heart.” Image: Courtesy of RMR Labs, Texas Heart Institute
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