According to an article in Popular Science, “A team of scientists from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine has created lab-grown human heart tissue that can beat on its own, according to a new study in Nature Communications.”

“Using various enzymes and special cleansing detergents, the researchers stripped a mouse heart of all its cells to create a scaffold for induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells), adult human cells that are reprogrammed to act like embryonic cells. They treated the iPS cells taken from a skin biopsy to become multipotential cardiovascular progenitor (MCP) cells, the precursor cells that can become any of the three types of cells found in the heart.”  Basically they are taking embryonic cells that are “programmed” to become one type of cell and re-wiring them to become heart cells!  AMAZING!

And these cells eventually grow into a “heart” that actually beats (although it beats a bit slower than the “normal” heart rate of a human).  But it’s progress!  Watch it beat:

This could eventually lead to personalized organ transplants, or even just a great way to study in the lab the way they human heart develops or how it responds to drugs.

Next, Lei Yang (an assistant professor of developmental biology at Pitt) wants to try to make just a patch of human heart tissue, which could be used to replace only regions of the heart that have been damaged by something like a heart attack. He told PopularScience.com via email that he hopes to test heart tissue patches in animals within the next few years.