“Oh crap,” Kevin Costa thought. A biomechanical engineer, he had labored for months to create miniature hearts, starting with a slurry of stem cells from rats and then coaxing them with chemicals in comfy little lab dishes not only to turn into specialized cardiac cells but also to gallivant around until they formed a three-dimensional, mini-me organ.

As he peered into a jury-rigged beaker held together with binder clips, however, Costa didn’t need a microscope — heck, he didn’t even need reading glasses — to see that something had gone crushingly wrong. The little heart had a hole at one end.

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