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A New Rapid 3-D Cell-Growth Technique For Growing Heart Muscle

U-M team reports success of rapid 3-D cell-growth technique that produces pulsing, organized tissue. Though it was grown in the lab, it looks, contracts //and responds almost like natural heart muscle, bringing scientists another step closer to the goal of creating replacement parts for damaged human hearts, or eventually growing an entirely new heart from just a spoonful of loose heart cells.

This week, the researchers from University of Michigan are reporting significant progress in growing bioengineered heart muscle (BEHM), with organized cells, capable of generating pulsating forces and reacting to stimulation more like real muscle than ever before.

Ravi K. Birla, Ph.D., of the Artificial Heart Laboratory in U-M’s Section of Cardiac Surgery and the U-M Cardiovascular Center, is leading the Research team. The U-M team details its achievement in a new paper published online in the Journal of Biomedical Materials Research Part A.

The three-dimensional tissue was grown using an innovative technique that is faster than others that have been tried in recent years, but still yields tissue with significantly better properties. The approach uses a fibrin gel to support rat cardiac cells temporarily, before the fibrin breaks down as the cells organize into tissue.

And while BEHM is still years away from use as a human heart treatment, or as a testing ground for new cardiovascular drugs, the U-M researchers say their results should help accelerate progress toward those goals. U-M is applying for patent protection on the development and is actively looking for a corporate partner to help bring the technology to market.

The new paper actually compares two different ways of using fibrin gel as a basis for creating BEHM: layering on top of the gel, and embedding within it. In the end, the layering approach produced a more cohesive tissue that contracted with more force – a key finding because embedding has been seen as the
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