Skin cells regenerated into beating heart cells

May 30, 2012

Scientists have taken skin cells from patients with advanced heart failure and used them to create healthy, patient-specific heart muscle cells, according to results of a recent study.

Haifa, Israel - Scientists have taken skin cells from patients with advanced heart failure and used them to create healthy, patient-specific heart muscle cells, according to results of a recent study.

The study, conducted by investigators with Rambam Medical Center, Haifa, Israel, suggests that by using patients as their own donors, the risk of immune system rejection of the new tissue is eliminated, MedPage Today reports. The new method also has the advantage of being able to use cells and tissue from any patient, not just the young and healthy.

Researchers obtained the fibroblasts from two patients, ages 51 and 61, and reprogrammed them via a viral vector with three genes to generate the human-induced pluripotent stem cells. They enhanced the efficiency of the reprogramming by supplementing the mixture with valproic acid. The study investigators took precautions to reduce the risk of these cells becoming cancerous by leaving out a gene that has been linked to cancer in stem cell creation. The new cells were also integrated with existing rat heart tissue in vitro.

Researchers concluded that the new treatment methods are promising, but that additional research, including human trials, will be necessary.

The study was published in the European Heart Journal.

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