Scientists grow heart tissue in Bioreactor

Oct. 5, 1999: If you've ever seen a pile of ivy that has taken the shape of an old barn that it has overgrown, you've seen the principle that researchers are following in trying to grow replacement parts for bodies. In research partly sponsored by NASA, scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have reported advances in characterizing the structural and electrical properties of heart tissue, and they've defined key parameters for growing the tissues.

Their results are reported in the August issue of the American Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology and the September issue of Biotechnology and Bioengineering.

The work is led by Dr. Lisa Freed, a principal research scientist in the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, working with Dr. Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic and other colleagues at MIT, Harvard Medical School, Boston University, and Brigham and Women's Hospital.

Their work is supported by NASA's Biotechnology Cell Science Program, directed by Dr. Neal Pellis at NASA's Johnson Space Center. the NASA program involves more than 100 scientists, engineers, and support personnel around the nation. A series of experiments has been carried out aboard the Space Shuttle and Russia's Mir space station, and soon will be expanded aboard the International Space Station. The Cell Biology Program is managed by NASA's Microgravity Research Program at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

The Bioreactor was developed by NASA to simulate the weightless environment of space by putting cells in a growth medium that constantly rotates and keeps the cells in endless free-fall.

For many people, culturing cells means putting some small number into nutrient media in a dish or a tube and letting them grow. However, this kind of approach does not provide the culture environment that supports tissue assemblies. Without a proper 3-D assembly, epithelial cells (the basic cells that differentiate ti

Contact: John Horack
NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center--Space Sciences Laboratory

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