Scientist overcome major obstacles to stem cell heart repair

December 13th, 2007 - 5:35 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, Dec 13(ANI): Researchers at Imperial College, London made a major advancement in conquering two significant barriers in harnessing stem cells to repair damaged hearts.

The research led by Professor Sian Harding explained that maturing beating heart cells (cardiomyocytes) derived from embryonic stem cells helps in developing the physical scaffolding that would be needed to hold the patch in place in the heart.

The researchers were aiming to solve two problems in the development of a stem cell heart patch.

The first is undesirable side effects, such as arrhythmia, that can result from immature and undeveloped cardiomyocytes being introduced to the heart.

The second is the need for a scaffold that is biocompatible with the heart and is able to hold the new cardiomyocytes in place while they incorporate into the existing heart tissue.

The stem cell team, led by Dr Nadire Ali, co-investigator examined the cardiomyocytes for up to seven months and demonstrated that these cells do mature.

The team has also overcome obstacles in the development of a biocompatible scaffold.

A group of biomaterial engineers, led by Dr Aldo Boccaccini and Dr Qizhi Chen, co-investigators on the grant, in the Department of Materials, Imperial College London, modified elasticity and programmable degradation by developing a new biomaterial with high level of biocompatibility with human tissue.

The researchers found that their material, which shares the elastic characteristics of heart tissue, could be programmed to degrade in anything from two weeks upwards depending on the temperatures used during synthesis.

Professor Harding said that the work done represented a step ahead in understanding how stem cell-derived developing heart cells can be matured in the laboratory.

Although we are still some way from having a treatment in the clinic we have made excellent progress on solving some of the basic problems with stem cell heart therapies, she said.

The work we have done represents a step forward in both understanding how stem cell-derived developing heart cells can be matured in the laboratory and how materials could be synthesised to form a patch to deliver them to damaged areas of the heart, she added.

Prof Harding also said that a little work still has to be done before it is used in humans.

A significant amount of hard work and research remains to be done before we will see this being used in patients but the heart is an area where stem cell therapies offer promise, said Harding.

The next step is to see how the material and cell combination behave in the long term.

The research was presented at UK Stem Cell Initiative conference in Coventry. (ANI)

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