Transformed from a sample of human skin, lab-grown heart muscle cells contract spontaneously in a dish (shown). To create the heart cells, Lei Yang at the University of Pittsburgh and colleagues first converted skin cells into stem cells and then dosed the cells with a tailor-made concoction of growth factors.
The researchers then added the resulting cardiac muscle cells to the structural shell of a mouse heart that had been stripped of its own cells. The human cells transformed the shell into tissue that pulsed at 40 to 50 beats per minute. The work, reported August 13 in Nature Communications, could help researchers understand how the heart develops and may fuel future advances in the creation of custom-made organs.