Erica Thayer   |   August 19, 2019

Growing a Heart — Project Heart’s Moonshot



In May of 1961, President John F. Kennedy delivered a speech stating that America was going to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. However, there was one problem: it was a seemingly impossible mission at the time. The technology simply didn’t exist.

Computers were the size of hall closets at the time. They mainly solved math problems over the course of several hours using a series of punch cards. The computer for the Apollo space mission could not run on punch cards. It needed to be the size of a small cooler and make calculations instantly based on input from various sensors on the ship and from mission control. Putting a man on the moon was more than a long shot — it was a moonshot. But 8 years later, Neil Armstrong took one small step for man and one giant leap for mankind. Against all odds, NASA accomplished an astonishing task. 

Growing a Heart 

Here at Project Heart we have our own seemingly impossible mission. We are going to grow a heart using a patient’s own DNA in 20 years. With small steps that rule out one idea and propel another, we will succeed. We believe this is the future and the cure for congenital heart disease (CHD). Imagine a heart grown from a patient’s own cells. No waiting on a transplant list, no anti-rejection medication lowering immune systems and no organ rejection. 

There is currently no cure for CHD. There are numerous treatments available, but these are temporary fixes. Even a traditional heart transplant lasts just approximately 9-12 years on average. Yet, there are amazing medical advances happening right now that tap into the power of a CHD patient’s own body to grow a healthy heart. Current technology allows for a simple blood draw and spinning down of said blood to obtain a person’s own stem cells. We now need to harness this new technology to grow a functioning human heart from those cells. 

Embracing Unknown 

Growing a heart won’t be easy. It is one of the most complex organs. It beats 115,000 times every day, moving more than 2000 gallons of blood through your body. It’s a wondrous machine that uses muscle, chemistry, and electricity to bring us to life. To grow. To live and love and learn. 

Despite the challenge, Project Heart is choosing this course. We are embracing the unknown because a cure for CHD lies in the unknown. We are relying on cutting-edge research knowing that trial and error will help us move forward. We are choosing hope of a life without limits because we believe every person deserves to have a healthy heart.

Because It’s Hard 

JFK spoke on his moonshot again in a later speech saying, “We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win…” 

Project Heart is choosing to grow a functioning human heart in 20 years. Not because it is easy, but because it is hard. We are unwilling to postpone a cure for CHD any longer. The battle against this childhood stealing, life altering, horrific disease is just that — a battle. And we intend to win. 

Click read more to learn about CHD Research!

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