Mini-heart grown in the lab can pump fluid

New Scientist, 1 July 2021

Stem cells have been used to grow an embryonic-like “heart” that can pump fluid around a system of tiny channels on a laboratory slide.

The mini-heart could allow researchers to explore how physical forces, such as blood flow, shape the early stages of human heart development and give new insights into congenital heart defects.

Current efforts to grow human heart tissue involve coaxing human stem cells to form spheres of heart tissue, known as organoids, in a lab dish. While these offer invaluable insights, they don’t accurately mimic the shape of the heart, which, in the earliest stages of its development, looks like a simple, straight tube.

“If we really want to model organ function, we need to figure out how to make these things in the form of tubes,” says David Sachs at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Sachs and his colleagues seeded human stem cells, known as induced pluripotent stem cells, onto a plastic plate containing tiny wells connected by hair-thin channels. By applying different combinations of chemical signals to different areas of the plate, they were able to get the cells to form tubes made of human heart muscle.

The heart tubes pumped fluid around the channels, Sachs told the International Society for Stem Cell Research’s 2021 meeting, held virtually last week…

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