Monday, January 14, 2008

Open-Jawed Astonishment

According to my newspaper, scientists at the University of Minnesota have grown a beating heart in a jar.

It's a rat's heart, and it was grown from a few cardiac cells taken from new-born rats, growing over -- this is the jaw-dropping part -- a scaffold made from a dead rat heart. The dead heart was soaked in detergents that stripped away all cardiac cells, leaving just a scaffold of connective tissues. Then they grew the new heart over that -- and the thing beats and could, theoretically, pump blood.

I've used tissue engineering in SF stories, most notably my now-out-of-print novel MAXIMUM LIGHT. I knew we were able to grow simple organs, such as the human outer ear famously grown on, and nourished by, the back of a mouse. (The photo of this is truly macabre.) But I had no idea tissue engineering had progressed this far.

God, I wish I could live another couple hundred years. I really want to see what happens when we can grow in a jar a pulsating, neuron-firing human brain.

On far -- far! -- more mundane news, Sheila Williams is taking my story "Exegesis" for ASIMOV'S. Actually, it's not a story. It's future lit-crit, sort of. You can take the girl out of the English Department but not, apparently, the English Department out of the SF writer.

1 comment:

bluesman miike Lindner said...

What makes you think you won't live another couple of hundred years, Nancy? Ain't yez feelin' prime? (sad smiley here)

Never put a limit on God's goodness!