Imagine a laboratory growing human hearts – and imagine that laboratory floating in space hundreds of miles above the surface of the Earth. That may sound like science fiction, but bizarre as it seems, it could bring new hope for transplant patients within the next decade.
While about 7,600 heart transplants were carried out around the world in 2017, there’s a desperate shortage of organs, with thousands of people on waiting lists dying every year. Efforts to grow human hearts in the lab are showing promise, but are hampered by the need for the organs to grow around a “scaffolding” to make sure they don’t collapse during the process. Reliably removing the scaffolding once the heart is complete is proving to be a challenge.
Space tech company Techshot believes zero gravity could be the answer. The International Space Station (ISS) is in constant freefall around the planet, meaning that anything inside experiences effective weightlessness, known technically as microgravity.
This means organs could be grown without the need for any scaffolding, believes Rich Boling, the firm’s vice-president of corporate advancement. One day hearts could be grown commercially for transplant, Techshot believes.
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