Pacemakers have saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of patients who are at risk of heart failure or rhythm disturbances. But pacemakers are not without flaw and many of themÂ fail with time. In some exciting recent news, researchers at Children's Hospital Boston believe that doctors may one day be able to use a patient's own cells rather than a pacemaker to help the patient's heart function more normally.
A Biology News article explains the progress they've made in testing this procedure in rats:
When the engineered tissue was implanted into rats, between the right atrium and right ventricle, the implanted cells integrated with the surrounding heart tissue and electrically coupled to neighboring heart cells. Optical mapping of the heart showed that in nearly a third of the hearts, the engineered tissue had established an electrical conduction pathway, which disappeared when the implants were destroyed. The implants remained functional through the animals' lifespan (about 3 years).
I mean it's no Jim Lehrer-themed birthday (see below) but it's almost as exciting.