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Can firefly stem cells help repair damaged hearts? Sho'nuff!

Steven Ebert  (Source: cdn.physorg.com)
Healthy heart muscle glows brighter and brighter as stem cells develop

University of Central Florida researchers could repair and monitor damaged hearts without cutting into a patient's chest with the use of glowing "firefly" stem cells

These stem cells, which are created with the same exact enzyme that makes fireflies glow, were engineered by Steven Ebert, an associate professor in UCF's College of Medicine. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the American Heart Association.

As the "firefly" stem cells develop into healthy heart muscle, they glow brighter and brighter, which allows researchers to watch and determine if the stem cells are working and where exactly they are. To do this, a special camera lens is used under a microscope to see the stem cells without ever having to cut into the patients chest. 

"The question that we answered was, 'How do you follow these cells in the lab and find out where they're going?'" said Ebert. 

Up until now, researchers were unsure as to why stem cells "morph" into organs where they are transplanted. They were also unsure of how fast it takes stem cells to do it. But with Ebert's research and use of "firefly" stem cells, these glowing stem cells can be observed step-by-step. 

According to Ebert, the next step in this type of research would be to use these stem cells in a disease model to observe how they heal a damaged heart and determine what sort of environment would help these stem cells become most successful. 

Figuring out how these stem cells repair and regenerate heart tissue could help the 17.6 million Americans dealing with coronary disease. In addition, with the use of "firefly" stem cells, the monitoring of the stem cells would not require cutting into the chest anymore. 

This study, titled "Generation of Novel Reporter Stem Cells and Their Application for Molecular Imaging of Cardiac-Differentiated Stem Cells In Vivo," can be found in this month's Stem Cell and Development Journal.



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RE: Say what?!
By safcman84 on 9/30/2010 5:28:22 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
I find it difficult to believe that stem cells from an insect, with its drastically different DNA, could morph into functioning human heart cells. Surely that is not possible?


lol.

they are human stem cells which have the same enzyme as the firefly. They are not actual firefly cells......


RE: Say what?!
By PaterPelligrino on 9/30/2010 5:57:13 AM , Rating: 2
Ouch! That is embarrassing. That'll teach me not to comment on articles I've only skimmed thorough.


RE: Say what?!
By tmouse on 9/30/2010 9:10:47 AM , Rating: 3
You are only partially correct. They used mouse stem cells injected into 2-4 day old mice. This is not as ground breaking as it seems. Luciferase has been used as a stem cell marker for years. The novelty is the in vivo tracking and this is only a little novel since mice at this age are fairly translucent anyways. They were able to inject into the heart by shining a light through the mouse’s back. They did get a good signal to be able to see bioluminescence through the body wall, but it is not applicable to anything else (older mice or humans). They also probably did not become “real” heart cells since by their own report the reporter’s signal attenuated by 2 weeks and stopped after 24 days and when more than 100,000 cells were used signal was seen throughout the chest and tumors were found in >80% or the mice. This is an example of some fair to good basic research being taken way out of context by the press.


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