First the heart of the donor is taken. It is then washed with detergents, commonly found in shampoo, yep that's right, to remove cells until its protein skeleton remains. Scientists have named this heart skeleton, a ghost heart as seen to the left.
The patient's stem cells, taken from blood or bone marrow, are placed in the protein skeleton by injection. The cells recognize the skeleton like an old friend and become heart cells.
|I call it Casper's Heart|
The man made heart is placed into a bioreactor, which is comprised of artificial lungs and tubes that supply the heart with blood and oxygen, in order to allow the organ to mature.
Scientists are working to one day be able to make the hearts beat, but there are also other obstacles such as getting the hearts to beat on time and being able to supply them with sufficient amounts of oxygen while in the human body.
Back in 2008, scientist were able to grow pig and rat hearts and to get them to beat, but they were not strong enough to be used in animals.
Hopefully, the ghost heart will be usable sooner than later since there are thousands of people in just the US alone waiting for a healthy heart. Even when one is found, the patient has to take medication that suppresses their immune system and can cause high blood pressure, diabetes and kidney failure.
It is truly incredible of what science is capable of these days. As a science fiction writer I could take a story like this and add the question 'what if?' to formulate my own science fiction novel.
I wish these scientists well on turning something that seems straight from fiction into reality.