Doctor uses pig heart to build human heart

By Sean Lavin, Special Projects Producer, slavin@wkmg.com
Published On: Mar 22 2014 12:40:00 AM EDT
Updated On: Mar 22 2014 01:02:47 AM EDT

It may sound like science fiction, but researchers are literally building new organs, like hearts and kidneys, that they hope will eventually be viable for transplants.

ORLANDO, Fla. -

There are 120,000 men, women and children waiting for an organ transplant -- but what if they didn't have to wait anymore?

It may sound like science fiction, but researchers are literally building new organs, like hearts and kidneys, that they hope will eventually be viable for transplants.

That possibility hit home with Amanda DeJesus, who received a heart transplant at age 15.

"So the idea of people not having to die for someone like me to have this chance would be amazing," DeJesus said. "I really do think it would be a miracle, so that's awesome. If that could one day happen."

The Texas Heart Institute is working to make that "miracle" happen.

Dr. Doris Taylor and her team are actually building hearts. They take pig hearts, strip them by using simple dish soap and water, and then implant them with adult human stem cells. The human stem cells then naturally grow into a human organ, like a heart.

"Most people have one or two wow moments in their life," Taylor said. "The first time I saw it beating, I was like, 'Yes!' It makes you question what is life. When you see a heart that was dead for eight days, and it starts beating...Oh my gosh."

So what's the timeline to turn this from sci-fi into real life? Taylor wouldn't say specfically, but said, "I think we'll be having some interesting conversations in the very short term."

The University of Florida is also researching the use of stem cells in the heart. UF joins the Texas Heart Institute as one of only seven facilities in the nation that is sanctioned by the National Institute of Health to do this kind of work.

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