Here's another amazing medical advance based on adult stem cell research: scientists have grown a heart valve from stem cells taken from bone marrow. It's important to note that to-date zero significant medical breakthroughs have resulted from embryonic stem cell research, in which a human being is killed and harvested for stem cells.
A British research team led by the world's leading heart surgeon has grown part of a human heart from stem cells for the first time. If animal trials scheduled for later this year prove successful, replacement tissue could be used in transplants for the hundreds of thousands of people suffering from heart disease within three years. ...
By using chemical and physical nudges, the scientists first coaxed stem cells extracted from bone marrow to grow into heart valve cells. By placing these cells into scaffolds made of collagen, Dr Chester and his colleague Patricia Taylor then grew small 3cm-wide discs of heart valve tissue. Later this year, that tissue will be implanted into animals - probably sheep or pigs - and monitored to see how well it works as part of a circulatory system.
If that trial works well, Prof Yacoub is optimistic that the replacement heart tissue, which can be grown into the shape of a human heart valve using specially-designed collagen scaffolds, could be used in patients within three to five years.
Growing a suitably-sized piece of tissue from a patient's own stem cells would take around a month but he said that most people would not need such individualised treatment. A store of ready-grown tissue made from a wide variety of stem cells could provide good matches for the majority of the population.
I've written about mechanical artificial hearts before, but growing a new biological heart from stem cells would be superior by leaps and bounds. It's also significant that growing and implanting a new heart would probably be easier, cheaper, and safer than complicated bypass operations that are often performed before a heart transplant is considered.
(Also see: growing a liver from stem cells.)