Skin Cells Could Be Used To Repair The Heart
A novel approach has been developed for treating heart diseases and failures: scientists have succeeded in taking a heart failure patient's own skin cells and changing them into heart cells that can possibly used to repair damaged heart tissue.
This research shows that using the patient's own cells, doctors can create human-induced pluripotent stem cells, or hiPSCs. These stem cells can then be integrated into the damaged heart, and will proceed to repair the organ.
With new advances in technology, scientists have figured out how to apply these hiPSCs in such a way that they will repair the damaged surrounding tissue. One major roadblock they've had is that these stem cells often came from outside the patient, and ran the risk of the patient's immune system rejecting it. Now, however, by using the patient's own cells to create the hiPSCs they have found a way around that problem.
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"In this study we have shown for the first time that it's possible to establish hiPSCs from heart failure patients -- who represent the target patient population for future cell therapy strategies using these cells -- and coax them to differentiate into heart muscle cells that can integrate with host cardiac tissue," said Professor Lior Gepstein, Professor of Medicine (Cardiology) and Physiology at the Sohnis Research Laboratory for Cardiac Electrophysiology and Regenerative Medicine.
The process was done by injecting three genes and a small molecule known as valporic acid into the cells' nuclei. They did not use a gene called c-Myc, which has been used to create stem cells but is also known to be cancer causing.
There are still many obstacles to be overcome before this process can be used in heart-failure patients.
"One of the obstacles to using hiPSCs clinically in humans is the potential for the cells to develop out of control and become tumours," explained Prof Gepstein.
Still, the resulting stem cells acted just as the young, healthy control group's hiPSCs did, and opens the door for further research into using one's own body to heal itself.