A team of scientists led by Sir Magdi Yacoub, a world famous heart surgeon based at Imperial College London, have used adult human stem cells to grow tissue that acts like a heart valve.
The next stage will be to attempt to grow a complete heart, a goal that until a few years ago was the stuff of science fiction. The heart valve tissue was the result of ten years of work, Yacoub said, and he expects the next stage to take as long again.
Despite promises in the media and a number of notorious false reports, embryonic stem cell research is nowhere near such successes. To date, with adult stem cells being used in numerous treatments for diseases and showing promise to grow replacement tissue tailored to specific patients, embryonic stem cells have produced little more than controversy.
The heart valves, grown from stem cells taken from bone marrow, could one day replace the plastic artificial heart valves and eliminate the requirement for tissue transplant patients to depend upon expensive anti-rejection drugs for the rest of their lives.