Monday, January 21, 2008

Of New Hearts and Tin Men

Have you heard of this? Scientists have stripped out the living material from a rat heart, discovered a non-living structural scaffolding (not previously known), infused it with stem cells, let it grow, and ended up with a new functional heart with all the DNA of the stem cell source.


As usual, this has me completely floored. The discoveries, innovations, and creations of modern science never get dull. How can this stuff bore anybody? On top of the wonder, just let your mind go a little wild on the implications. Using induced stem cells (another amazing recent discovery), you could donate a new heart to yourself. Or a kidney, or a liver, or whatever.

As with so many aspects of science and technology, I think that in the future we will see the current era of organ transplants from others, and the need for anti-rejection therapies, as a primitive and extremely temporary middle step on the road to abundant, made-to-order organs. Until, that is, we move beyond organs completely.

Here's a podcast from NPR's Science Friday. It's an interview with the project leader, and again, really fascinating.

EDIT: I didn't like that flash player. QuickTime it is.

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