Check Out This Beating Mini-Heart in a Jar

It’s made out of living human cells. Someday they could be yours.

NEO.LIFE
NEO.LIFE
Jul 19, 2018 · 2 min read

The human heart is special. That’s not some bad poetry: it’s a tricky truth in medical research. Time and time again, drugs that look promising in experiments on animals are no good for humans. And often it’s because a compound that is harmless to a mouse heart is toxic to the human heart. Other rodent organs more closely approximate ours, but the structure and the physics of our hearts—all the way down to the minute details of how calcium ions flow—are simply too different.

That’s why a company called Novoheart developed this miniature human heart in a jar. OK, it’s just a portion of a heart—an organoid—grown from human stem cells. But it’s hollow and it beats. When any compound is added to the container, researchers can get clues about its safety by analyzing how well the organoid conducts electricity and how strongly it contracts.

One of Novoheart’s first clients is Pfizer, which is studying a drug that might treat a neuromuscular disorder called Friedreich’s ataxia. Novoheart got cells from two people who have the disease and coaxed those cells to grow over about four months into cardiac organoids. Someday, says Kevin Costa, Novoheart’s chief scientist, your doctor might order up organoids from your own cells to help determine which drugs are best for you.





NEO.LIFE

Making sense of the Neobiological Revolution.

NEO.LIFE

Written by

NEO.LIFE

Making sense of the Neobiological Revolution. Get the email at www.neo.life.

NEO.LIFE

NEO.LIFE

Making sense of the Neobiological Revolution.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade