Currently, the demand for organs for transplant far exceeds the number of organs harvested from human cadavers. As a result many seriously ill individuals die from diseased essential organs such as the heart, liver and lungs. This is a dilemma that plagues modern medicine
The work of Ibrahim J. Domian from the Cardiovascular Research Center in Boston Massachusetts suggests an alternative to the reliance on intact organs for transplantation. Dr. Domian and his colleagues have successfully grown functional mouse heart muscle from mouse embryonic stem cells (ESC) in a laboratory (in vitro).
The process by which an embryonic stem cell becomes a cell with a specialized function such as a muscle cell is referred to as differentiation. This group has discovered a progenitor cell capable of in vitro expansion, differentiation and assembly into functional muscle tissue. This work is preliminary in nature. However, the implications are far reaching. One can envision a time in the future when ESC are engineered to produce an intact organ in the laboratory. Such a development would potentially save innumerable lives.
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