Friday, July 3, 2009

Great News: Scientists ID'd Heart Stem Cells!

Source: Constance Holden, ScienceNOW Daily News
2 July 2009

I was thrilled to read today that scientists have finally identified the cardiac stem cells that create all of the major cell types in the human heart. In recent years, scientists identified these cells in embryotic mice, but now a team at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston have found these same cells (that express the protein Islet 1) in humans. The team reports its work in Nature.

What does this mean? That researchers are one step closer to creating new cardiac stem cells in the heart's major cell types: heart muscle (cardiomyocytes), smooth muscle, and blood vessel lining (endothelium).

Chien, the researcher who made this astounding discovery, cautions that these primordial stem cells could not be used for therapy because they could develop into undesired cell types, but they could be used for disease modeling and drug screening and - most importantly to those of us affected by CHD - further research on congenital heart malformations. Chien speculates that CHD's "may be a stem cell disease" because Islet 1 cells are clustered in areas that are "hot spots" for heart defects.

The future I hope it holds for us? The possibility of growing human "heart parts" (such as strips of muscle or a valve) to assist CHD survivors.

1 comment:

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