stem cells  (Source:
This finding can help researchers model diseases in the lab, and allow these diseases to be studied

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison have found a way to turn both embryonic and induced pluripotent stem cells into cardiomyocytes.

Sean Palecek, study leader and professor of chemical and biological engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, along with Timothy Kamp, professor of cardiology at UW School of Medicine and Public Health, and Xiaojun Lian, a UW graduate student, have developed a technique for abundant cardiomyocyte production, which will allow scientists to better understand and treat diseases.

Cardiomyocytes are important cells that make up the beating heart. These cells are extremely difficult to obtain, especially in large quantities, because they only survive for a short period of time when retrieved from the human heart.

But now, the UW researchers have found an inexpensive method for developing an abundance of cardiomyocytes in the laboratory. This finding can help researchers model diseases in the lab, and allow these diseases to be studied. Researchers will also be able to tests drugs that could help fight these diseases, such as heart disease.

"Many forms of heart disease are due to the loss or death of functioning cardiomyocytes, so strategies to replace heart cells in the diseased heart continue to be of interest,” said Kamp. "For example, in a large heart attack up to 1 billion cardiomyocytes die. The heart has a limited ability to repair itself, so being able to supply large numbers of potentially patient-matched cardiomyocytes could help."

The UW research team found that changing a signaling pathway called Wnt can help guide stem cell differentiation to cardiomyocytes. They just turned the Wnt pathway on and off at different times using two small molecule chemicals.

"Our protocol is more efficient and robust," said Palecek. "We have been able to reliably generate greater than 80 percent cardiomyocytes in the final population while other methods produce about 30 percent cardiomyocytes with high batch-to-batch variability.

"The biggest advantage of our method is that it uses small molecule chemicals to regulate biological signals. It is completely defined, and therefore more reproducible. And the small molecules are much less expensive than protein growth factors."

This study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Just last month, researchers from the University of Toronto's Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering (IBBME) created a method for growing stem cells in larger quantities as well. They combined the stem cell creation process with a bioreactor, which provides stable environments for such processes. The cells were also grown in suspension, making the process more stable and safer for more viable cells. By doing this, mouse cells were reprogrammed into pluripotent stem cells, which can become any kind of cell. They were then changed into cardiac cells.

Source: Eurekalert

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