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Your Clone-Based Dystopias Are Invalid: Scientists Grow Working Heart Tissue From Human Cells


Are you worried you’re actually a clone being farmed for organs for your original’s health? (If you weren’t … um, carry on.) Well, soon you can be safely discarded thanks to scientific advances that have allowed researchers to regrow actual, functioning heart tissue. Yay?

For those of us who are our prime selves, though, it’s pretty great news. While growing entirely new organs from our own cells is still years away, it’s pretty encouraging that progress is being made towards that eventual reality. After all, when an organ fails, growing our own new body parts has a few benefits over using transplants, not the least of which is a significantly reduced risk that your body will reject the replacement.

Waiting for a donor match isn’t so great, either, but we may not have to if the work by researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital continues to progress. Their paper, published in the journal Circulation Research, describes how they were able to create stem cells from human skin cells to create functioning heart muscle tissue. They broke down the cells of hearts that were deemed unsuitable for donation until only the extracellular matrix, the framework of the heart’s cells, remained. Then, they populated the matrix—again, not the sci-fi dystopia kind—with the stem cells and placed it in a nutrient solution under conditions a living heart is faced with.

After two weeks, they had successfully grown cardiac muscle that contracted normally when electrically stimulated, though the tissue was still a bit “immature,” according to CNET. I guess it would probably find the Parks and Rec “fart attack” joke hilarious, then?

Anyway, with replacing whole hearts still a ways in the future, the current research goal is to create “patches” that would replace damaged tissue in the event of heart failure. Jacques Guyette, the study’s lead author, said in a statement,

Among the next steps that we are pursuing are improving methods to generate even more cardiac cells—recellularizing a whole heart would take tens of billions—optimizing bioreactor-based culture techniques to improve the maturation and function of engineered cardiac tissue, and electronically integrating regenerated tissue to function within the recipient’s heart.

Take that, The Island and every other piece of fiction about harvesting organs from clones. There’s one possible future dystopia mostly ruled out—only infinity more to go.

(via CNET, image via DreamWorks Pictures)

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Dan is a video game modding hobbyist and secret ninja who lives in North Carolina with his wife, Lisa Brown, and his dog, Liz Lemon, both of whom are the best.