The researchers managed to accomplish the groundbreaking medical feat by stripping the heart of its own stem cells and then filling it up with human stem cells. A couple of weeks' perfusion later, the rodent heart had started beating on its own and was even responsive to drugs.
The team's lead scientist Lei Yang reported that the half-mouse, half-human heart currently beats around 40 to 50 times a minute, and they're working to gain more control over it.
The experiment and its success is the first step towards Yang's long-term goal of building artificial hearts that can be used for transplantation in human beings.
"Using our method, we could generate both muscle and vascular-like structures in the engineered heart constructs," says Yang. "We hope to make a piece of human heart tissue soon but our dream is to regenerate a human heart organ."
In the meantime, check out the said rodent's heart beating with human stem cells: