Chinese doctors have succeeded in nurturing an in vitro embryonic human heart equivalent in size to a grain of rice in culture fluid for 13 days to date in a lab in northeast China.
The tiny human heart is still beating on Thursday, between 60 and 80 times per second, according to doctors with the procreation center lab of the Shenyang Women and Infants' Hospital in Shenyang, the capital of Liaoning Province.
There hasn't been any similar report both at home and abroad sofar, doctors said.
Wang Tong, a doctor with the lab, said that the heart's valves had grown well and developed into the shape and structure of an adult heart.
The small heart came from a 53-day embryo, the result of an abortion. On June 5, Wang removed the heart from the embryo and placed it into a culture dish in the procreation lab.
Wang said when he arrived at the lab on the morning of June 6, he was so happy to see that the heart was beating strongly, and he observed, with the help of a microscope, that the cells of the heart were breaking up.
"This showed that the heart was growing," Wang said excitedly.
Prior to the culturing of this human heart, the research of this type carried out in China was on Poecilia Reticulata, a kind of fish, and on mice, according to scientific documents provided by the Liaoning Provincial Science and Technology Information Research Institute.
Significantly, there is no record of the survival of in vitro human hearts in embryonic form in labs in the world so far, according to the research institute.
Wang said that his lab has been conducting research on protogonocyte in the genital ridge, hoping to obtain stem cells to clone human body organs and parts such as the lung, liver, eye, hand and stomach.
Through this research, he hopes that it will some day be much easier for doctors to treat patients, just as they would repair a motor vehicle -- by simply replacing a part, Wang said.
Wang said that he and his colleagues are nurturing another human heart taken from a 42-day embryo, which has survived for nine days.
Lab head Qu Wenyu said that the survival of the two human hearts for such a long period indicates, at a minimum, a breakthrough in culture technology, which can help to unveil the secrets of the development of human beings from a germ cell.
Doctors with the lab say that the survival of the two human hearts is also significant for the study of clone technology, pharmacology and other sciences and technologies.