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Human derived stem cells can repair rat hearts damaged by heart attack
Date:8/26/2007

When human heart muscle cells derived from embryonic stem cells are implanted into a rat after a heart attack, they can help rebuild the animal's heart muscle and improve function of the organ, scientists report in the September issue of Nature Biotechnology. The researchers also developed a new process that greatly improves how stem cells are turned into heart muscle cells and then survive after being implanted in the damaged rat heart. The findings suggest that stem-cell-based treatments might one day help people suffering from heart disease, the leading cause of death in most of the world.

The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle and at Geron Corp. in Menlo Park, Calif. The scientists set out to tackle two of the main challenges to treating damaged hearts with stem cells: the creation of cardiac cells from embryonic stem cells, and the survival of those cells once they are implanted in a damaged heart.

"Past attempts at treating infarcted hearts with stem cells have shown promise, but they have really been hampered by these challenges," explained Dr. Chuck Murry, director of the Center for Cardiovascular Biology in the UW Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine, and corresponding author on the study. "This method we developed goes a long way towards solving both of those problems. We got stem cells to differentiate into mostly cardiac muscle cells, and then got those cardiac cells to survive and thrive in the damaged rat heart."

Embryonic stem cells can differentiate, or turn into, any type of cell found in the body. But researchers had struggled to get stem cells to differentiate into just cardiomyocytes, or heart muscle cells -- most previous efforts resulted in cell preparations in which only a fraction of 1 percent of the differentiated cells were cardiac muscle cells. By treating the stem cells with two growth factors, or growth-encouraging proteins, and
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Contact: Justin Reedy
jreedy@u.washington.edu
206-685-0382
University of Washington
Source:Eurekalert

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