Hope for cardiac patients as heart cells grown in lab

April 25th, 2008 - 3:58 pm ICT by admin  

Toronto, April 25 (IANS) In a major breakthrough for heart patients, researchers have developed heart cells from human embryonic stem cells in a test-tube. If experiments succeed, these heart cells can be used to repair hearts damaged by a heart attack.

The researchers, led by Toronto-based Gordon Keller who is the director of the McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine at University Health Network, made this breakthrough in their experiments on mice.

According to Keller, his team treated human embryonic stem cells with hormones - called `growth factors’ - to develop them into heart cells known as progenitor cells.

When these progenitors were grown in a dish, they developed their own heartbeat.

Keller said these progenitor cells can be turned into three kind of human heart cells: cardiac muscle cells that pump blood, endothelial cells that line coronary blood vessels, and vascular muscle cells that form blood vessels.

When his team transplanted a mixture of three types of cells into the hearts of mice with stimulated heart problem, their heart functions improved greatly.

Keller said their research held great implications for heart patients.

“I can’t put any time line on that and we don’t know if it will ever work. The right experiments haven’t been done yet to know if we can take a graft of human cells and show that it effectively functions over the long term,” Keller told a Canadian news agency.

In the meantime, he said, his team would “try to establish platforms to determine if we can use these human heart cells to assess the function of new drugs, either the benefit or the toxic effects.

“We could potentially eliminate drugs that in the long term would have detrimental effects on the heart.”

Nature journal, which this week carried the findings of the 18-month study in Canada, the US and Britain, said the breakthrough heralded a major step towards the advent of lab-grown heart-tissue transplants.

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