• Discovery’s Edge: Beat still my beating heart

a medical illustration of a heart with stitches after surgery

Written by science writer Sara Tiner

As a science writer, I’m typically juggling a recorder, a note pad and a pen. Sometimes a camera. Today, the heart I held in my hand was warm and firm, red and healthy-looking.

And beating. In my hand.

Just an hour earlier it was in the body of a 110 pound pig. Over the next few hours I’ll watch as Christopher Livia, an M.D.-Ph.D. student, his summer student Scott Rohren and Tyra Witt, veterinary technician, get a cold, dead heart to beat again. This work in the Behfar laboratory is part of the Van Cleve Cardiac Regenerative Medicine Program’s initiative to increase the number of available hearts for transplantation.

The first heart transplant was performed in 1967 on a grocer from Cape Town, South Africa. While the patient, Louis Washkansky, only lived 18 days, the surgery emboldened other medical centers. Advances in immunology and the discovery of the anti-rejection medication cyclosporine in 1976, made transplantation a real option for those in need. Read the rest of Sara's article.
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