Cloning hearts in Central New York? It’s now becoming a reality. The Organ Bioengineering team at Masonic Research Laboratory in Utica is installing the world’s first Harvard Apparatus Human Heart Cloning Chamber.
These researchers say they’re pushing the envelope of medical science. This technology has already been successful in cloning simple organs. And scientists say they’ve reached the next step in their goal to clone an entire human heart.
“There are currently 5-million Americans suffering with heart failure in the United States. 3-thousand are waiting on a list for donor hearts. There are not sufficient hearts available today. This will provide another source of hearts,” says Dr. Charles Antzelevitch, Masonic Medical Research Laboratory Director of Research & Executive Director.
Dr. Antzelevitch says the cloning chamber is the first of its kind to be able to hold a full-sized human heart. The heart would be from a cadaver or from an animal, which has a heart identical to a human heart, and would then be inserted into the chamber. Throughout this process, all of the genetic material is washed from the heart tissue, leaving just collagen, valves, veins and arteries. The structure left standing serves as the backbone for the cloned heart.
“We are hoping to grow human hearts on the bench suitable for transplantation but we wanted to start first optimizing the methodology with these small hearts,” says Dr. Jose Di Diego, Masonic Medical Research Laboratory Scientist & Organ Bioengineering Program team member.
They are researching on a rabbit heart that weighs about 10 grams. Scientists say if this research is successful, the next step would be scaling up to a full-sized human heart that weighs about 300 grams.
“5 years ago they used rat hearts which are 5 times or 10 times smaller than a rabbit heart. Going from a rat heart to a rabbit heart is a scale up in the project. This is the beginning but we are on the way,” Dr. Di Diego.
Researchers say they’re hoping to repopulate this heart with adult human stem cells in the coming months. What’s the ultimate goal?
“To be able to have an individual who has heart failure or who needs a new heart, go to his doctor, and then have a skin biopsy taken to bioengineer a new heart using that individual’s own cells so that when the heart is finally transplanted, the patient does not reject it,” says Dr. Antzelevitch.
The researchers believe that in the next 15 years, patients will be able to go to their doctor, give a vial of blood and return 6-8 weeks later to have a heart cloned from their own genetic tissue transplanted back into their body.
Want to see it first-hand?
The Cardiac Research Institute at Masonic Medical Research Laboratory (MMRL) will host an open house on Saturday, June 22. The Laboratory will be open for group presentations and tours from 10:30 AM to 3 PM. Tours will include experimental cardiology, molecular genetics, molecular biology, stem cell and organ bioengineering research and will allow for interaction with MMRL scientists and staff.
At 12:00 Noon, Dr. Antzelevitch will present Cardiac Research in the 21st Century, focused on exciting new advances in heart disease and the impact of MMRL’s achievements in molecular genetics, cardiac electrophysiology, stem cell technology and organ bioengineering on the development of innovative new approaches to therapy of heart disease. The presentation will take place in the Royal Arch Masons Auditorium at the Masonic Medical Research Laboratory.
For more information, visit www.mmrl.edu or call (315) 735-2217.