Stanford Creates Tiny Hearts

By Mathew Luschek
|  Wednesday, Feb 9, 2011  |  Updated 6:15 PM PDT
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Children Mending Hearts: Stars Come Out for a Cause

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Researchers at Standford have built a tiny heart. A tiny broken heart with a crippling heart beat.

Using skin cells from kids with a specific genetic heart defect, scientists have recreated the problem at a cellular level, reports the Mercury News.

"What is wrong in these patients, we see in these cells," said Ricardo Dolmetsch, PhD, a neurobiologist at Stanford University School of Medicine and senior author of the study, published online Wednesday in the journal Nature.

"You can't go into the heart of a sick little boy or girl and take the cells out to study what's going on," said Dolmetsch.

So what they've done is built their own. These tiny hearts, which are barely visible to the naked eye, and live in petri dishes, make it much easier for researchers to study the defect.

The scientists created three cells - an atrial, ventricular and nodal cell. When put together the cells bond and start beating in unison creating a one-chambered heart.

The hope is that using this method could also lead to treatments of several other heart issues as well.

"Our hope is to advance our basic understanding to the point where we can do a better job of delivering treatment," Dolmetsch said.

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