A breakthrough new technique has been developed by Dutch researchers at University Medical Center Utrecht and the Hubrecht Institute to grow new heart muscle tissue from adult heart stem cells. According to the medical center website, the researchers were able to coax stem cells from the heart itself into growing into "fully developed heart muscle cells that contract rhythmically, respond to electrical activity, and react to adrenaline".
Until now, it has been necessary to use embryonic stem cells to produce heart cells for research into treatments for various heart diseases. In addition to the controversial nature of this previous approach, it is very low yield since only some of the embryonic cells actually form into heart tissue. Also, by using stem cells from the patient's own heart, doctors may soon be able to culture enough tissue to find treatments for genetic diseases and even help to replace damaged tissue for heart attack victims. Since the cells come from the patient being treated, there is no risk of rejection.