We developed methods to revive human hearts, obtained at the time of cardiac transplantation, and study them in the physiology laboratory. The hearts were arrested with cardioplegic solution at the time of explanation and transported to the laboratory at 4 degrees C. The hearts were perfused with a human blood based solution whose flow rate, temperature, and ionic concentration were controlled. Six hearts with various endstage cardiomyopathies were revived in this manner. Once perfusion was started, the hearts maintained a steady contractile state for approximately 30 min during which time data could be collected. Within this time period we could measure end-systolic and end-diastolic pressure-volume relations, the time courses of contraction and relaxation, and the influence of heart rate and premature stimulation on contractile state. The results suggest that evidence of specific cellular abnormalities in human heart disease might be obtained from measurements of global ventricular performance. Furthermore, the type of abnormality identified, namely sarcoplasmic reticulum dysfunction, in several forms of cardiomyopathy was in concordance with results obtained in muscle bath studies of similarly diseased human and animal myocardium.