Mouse skin cells were turned into cardiac cells needed for heart repair

Around the country, researchers are pouring massive amounts of time and money into stem cell research and how the research can be applied to treating disease and other conditions in the human body. A couple problems exist with some methods of getting the stem cells needed for the research. One problem is that the best source of embryonic stem cells are from human fetuses and the second is that stem cells from other donors still pose a risk of rejection by the patient.

Stem cell researchers from UCLA announced that they have been able to create a type of stem cell directly from the donor in animal trials. The researchers were able to take skin cells from a mouse and reprogram the cells to have similar properties to embryonic stem cells.

The cells used are called induced pluripotent stem cells or iPS cells. The study findings show that the researchers were able to differentiate the iPS cells into the three types of cardiovascular cells needed to repair the heart and blood vessels.

Dr. Robb MacLellan said in a statement, “The discovery could one day lead to clinical trials of new treatments for people who suffer heart attacks, have atherosclerosis or are in heart failure.” MacLellan is a researcher at the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCLA and senior study author.

MacLellan continued, “I believe iPS cells address many of the shortcomings of human embryonic stem cells and are the future of regenerative medicine.”

The researchers point out that while iPS cells are believed to be similar to embryonic stem cells; further study needs to be done to confirm the differentiation potential. Dr. Miodrag Stojkovic, co-author of Stem Cells says, “Theoretically, iPS cells are able to differentiate into 220 different cells types. For the first time, scientists from UCLA were able to induce the differentiation of mouse iPS cells into functional heart cells."

The study researchers cultured the iPS cells on a protein matrix known to direct embryonic stem cells into differentiating into cardiovascular progenitor cells. This type of cell is an immature heat cell that can become heart cells that perform different functions.

The researchers then isolated the iPS cells that differentiated into the cardiovascular progenitor cells with a protein marker called KDR. Once the cells were isolated they were coaxed into becoming mature heart cells that control heartbeat called cardiomyocytes, endothelial cells and vascular smooth muscle cells. Once matured the cardiomyocytes beat in the petri dish.

MacLellan concluded by saying, “Our hope is that, based on this work in mice, we can show that similar cardiovascular progenitor cells can be found in human iPS cells and, using a similar strategy, that we can isolate the progenitor cells and differentiate them into the cells types found in the human heart.”

In April DailyTech reported that the U.S. Army was conducting similar research into using a patient’s cellular structure to grow replacement body parts like ears and fingers.

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