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Coming fresh on the heels of the news that scientists are successfully 3D printing live, working, mini human kidneys, a new report in Nature is giving another burst of hope to the future of organ transplants. For the very first time, a research team has been able to grow human heart tissue that beats totally autonomously in its petri dish home.
Nature has a nice dive into the scientific quest to grow complex organs like a human heart. No, it hasn’t been done yet — but it’s surprisingly within reach.
Using cow parts to save ailing human hearts isn’t anything new — you could even be sitting next to one of our more bovine brethren right now and think nothing of it. But the newest cow-to-heart integration takes a bit of a deeper dive into science fiction land. Soon, a French medical company will begin testing a “bioprosthetic” heart on actual human patients that is part cow, part synthetic, and loaded with software.
The idea of putting a decaying radioactive isotope inside your chest might make you a little uneasy — and rightly so. But, in 1967, the National Heart Institute and the Atomic Energy Agency set out to make it happen in the form of an plutonium-238-powered atomic heart. Think Tony Stark with nuclear waste in his chest.
Supercomputers let us simulate everything from the weather, to a chess match against a master, to how the human body operates. But researchers at Japan’s National Cerebral and Cardiovascular Center have created a detailed 3D simulation of a beating human heart that can run on a laptop, allowing even small hospitals to perform research and complex diagnoses.
Like all technology, medical implants can be made smaller as the engineering behind them gets more advanced. That’s how a 16-month-old Italian baby was able to become the recipient of the world’s smallest artificial heart — and have its life saved in the process.