Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Scientists turn embryonic stem cell into heart cell

An older news on stem cell development in Canada but still interesting to read today...

Canadian scientists have discovered how to turn an embryonic stem cell into a so-called "master" heart cell that can then turn into an "endless supply" of three different cell types found in a human heart, according to an online edition of the journal Nature posted on Wednesday.

The hope is that this breakthrough will lead to the creation of heart tissue that could repair hearts damaged by disease or heart attacks.

Embryonic stem cells are able to turn into any kind of cell in the human body. With this research, scientists were able to devise the right cocktail of growth factors and molecules to turn the master heart cell into three types of heart cells: muscle cells that pump blood, cells that form blood vessels and cells that create the lining of blood vessels.

"We're telling them in the best way we can to go down a pathway, and that pathway is towards a functioning heart cell," said study author Gordon Keller of Toronto's McEwan Center for Regenerative Medicine.

Keller noted that since the process was rather quick, and the stem cells became heart cells in about 14 days, it could have a big impact in the field of heart research.

The cells could be used to study the effectiveness of new drugs, Keller said. As well, researchers could determine if sheets of these cells could be used to repair large areas of a damaged heart.

Keller said that the next step is to try this particular recipe with skin cells. This could eliminate the problem of tissue rejection if heart cells were created by a person's own skin cells. As well, it circumvents the ethical controversy of using embryonic stem cells.

Source:  Xinhua News Agency April 24, 2008

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