Master Heart Cells Created for Heart Disease Treatment

April 24, 2008 · Print This Article · Email This Post

Human Heart

Canadian scientists at Toronto’s McEwan Centre for Regenerative Medicine have successfully turned embryonic stem cells into “master” heart cells which could ultimately create healthy heart tissue for patients with heart disease, including heart attack victims. Three types of cells are found in a human heart: blood-pumping muscle cells and cells that create blood vessels and blood vessel linings. The master heart cell can create an infinite supply of all three types, according to Dr. Gordon Keller of the McEwan Centre. The Centre’s findings were published yesterday in the Nature journal.

 

Dr. Gordon Keller, McEwan Centre for Regenerative Medicine, Toronto

Because the process of converting stem cells to heart cells is rapid — about two weeks — the new findings could dramatically speed up cardiac research. Keller noted that potential applications include studying the effectiveness of new drugs, and determining if sheets of master heart cells could repair large areas of damaged heart tissue.

 

Dr. Michael Rudnicki

Dr. Michael Rudnicki, of the Stem Cell Network of Canada, told CTV: “Without question, this advance in knowledge will open new doors so that stem cells can be used in clinics and used potentially to treat people with heart disease…This means that those cells can be eventually exploited for human therapy.” Because of some ethical controversies about the use of embryonic stem cells, Dr. Keller said that the next step is to replicate the process with skin cells rather than embryonic stem cells. The use of skin cells would also eliminate the problem of tissue rejection, if master heart cells were created using an individual’s own skin cells.

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Photo credits: CTV and Turbo Squid



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