Wednesday, June 7, 2006 . Posted: 00:00:00 (AEDT)
Scientists grow new heart muscle

Melbourne researchers believe they have managed to grow heart muscle that can beat on its own.

Scientists around the world are racing to engineer human tissue to replace diseased and worn out organs.

Dr Susan Bortolotto, from the Bernard O'Brien Institute for Microsurgery, says her team has done it by implanting beating blood vessels into a chamber in the body.

"Over four weeks the cells grew [and] we have a piece of beating heart at the end of those four weeks," she said.

Lead researcher Professor Wayne Morrison said: "My own heart started to beat a bit faster - it was very exciting. This is what it is all about. It has made us jump."

The hope is to grow the tissue into organs for patients waiting for heart transplants or help those with heart failure.

As it is their own tissue, there is no chance of rejection.

Heart experts are calling it a major advance.

"It's an immense first step and its a world first," Heart Foundation spokesman Professor Andrew Tonkin said.

The breakthrough announced today was done using human tissue in animals.

The team still needs to ensure that the approach works in the human body but they are confident as they have already managed to grow human breast and fat tissues.

They hope to start the human tests within the next few year.