A dead heart beats again, thanks to the efforts of scientists at the University of Minnesota. To rebuild and reanimate the organ, which was harvested from a rat, scientists first stripped the old heart cells away with a detergent typically found in shampoos. That left behind a collagen matrix—the protein fibers that hold groups of cells together and help give organs their overall shape—which they then reseeded with heart cells from a newborn rat. They attached the organ to electrodes and waited. Then it happened: The heart started to beat regularly. “We were all running around like crazy, scared that it would [just stop and] never beat again,” says team member Harald Ott, a surgical resident at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. The reanimation technique is now being tested on pig hearts, which are much closer in structure to human hearts than are rat hearts. Organs from built-to-order collagen matrices could help treat the five million Americans who suffer from heart failure and the some 2,600 patients currently waiting for transplant donors.
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