Although this article is written with a bit of Frankensteinish flair, it’s impressive that scientists are able to essentially use the heart of a dead rat as the scaffolding to build a new one that actually pumps!
Major organ transplants generally involve the death of someone less fortunate, in a way that preserves the integrity of the organ being transplanted. The need for organs far outnumbers the availability, and transplants of foreign tissue require that for the rest of the recipients life, clinicians must carefully balance weakening the recipient’s immune system and running the risk of opportunistic infection with avoiding outright organ rejection. The article introduces an approach that mixes recipient stem cells, converted to heart tissue, with the collagen scaffold from the original heart to grow an organ that shows at least some coordinated heart function.
Ethics issues are openly (and hotly) debated because the scarcity of suitable organs leads to difficult and sometimes controversial decisions. I see this current research success as a small step to giving hope to those who will not survive the usually long wait for a donor organ.
Until we can grow new hearts from old the only option is a donor organ. I signed my driver’s license to allow my organs to be donated. More people should do the same.