Heart failure patients' skins
cells turned into beating heart muscle
28 May 2012 / By
Helen Brooks / Appeared in BioNews 658
For the first time, scientists have managed to turn heart attack patients'
skin cells into healthy
beating heart cells in the lab.
Previously, the technique had only been successful using skin cells from young and healthy people. This research, published in the European Heart Journal, marks the first time it has worked for skin cells from elderly patients and those with heart disease.
Professor Lior Gepstein, of Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, Israel, who led the research explains that the beating cells are 'healthy and young - the equivalent to the stage of his heart cells when he was just born'.
The ability to use heart failure patients' own, reprogrammed cells would theoretically stop them being rejected by their immune systems.
The researchers took skin cells from two elderly male heart failure patients and reprogrammed them by delivering three genes to the cell's nucleus along with a small molecule called valproic acid. The resulting cells are called human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs), which have the ability to become any cell type in the body.
In this case, the scientists transformed them into heart muscle cells, which were grown with healthy cardiac tissue. After 24 hours the tissues started beating together in a Petri dish, 'like a tiny microscopic cardiac tissue comprised of approximately 1000 cells in each beating area', according to Professor Gepstein.
Lastly, the engineered tissue was transplanted into healthy rat hearts and the researchers saw that the grafted tissue was establishing connections with the host tissue.
However, much more extensive research is required before this technology is
seen in the clinic.
Dr Marrick Kukin, director of the Heart Failure Program at St Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital in New York, who was not involved in the study told ABC news: 'It is very exciting and very interesting, but we are far away from taking this to patients'.
He added that the study only involved two patients, and that the cells were transplanted into healthy rat hearts with no signs of heart failure, asking: 'Will it work in heart muscle that's dead?'.
There are still a number of major experiments that need to take place before testing out this therapy in humans, Kukin added, including studies on mammals and in animals whose hearts have been damaged.
Dr Shephal Doshi, director of electrophysiology and pacing at Saint John's
Health Center in Santa Monica, USA, who was not involved in the study told the
LA times: 'What we produce in an animal model or in a Petri dish is hardly what
happens in a human. This is a first step. It will take five, ten, 15, maybe
20 years to reach fruition at the soonest'.
SOURCES & REFERENCES
Can Skin Cells Repair Damaged Heart Tissue?
ABC News | 23 May 2012
Derivation and cardiomyocyte differentiation of induced pluripotent stem cells from heart failure patients
European Heart Journal | 22 May 2012
How damaged hearts could be healed by growing stem cells
Daily Mail | 23 May 2012
Patients' Skin Cells Turned Into Heart Muscle Cells to Repair Their Damaged Hearts
Science Daily | 22 May 2012
Scientists turn skin cells into beating heart muscle
Reuters | 22 May 2012
Skin cells turned into healthy heart muscle cells
BBC | 23 May 2012
Skin from heart attack patients transformed into beating heart cells
Guardian | 23 May 2012
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