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'Master molecule' may improve stem cell treatment of heart attacks
Date:6/20/2012

Johns Hopkins researchers have discovered that a single protein molecule may hold the key to turning cardiac stem cells into blood vessels or muscle tissue, a finding that may lead to better ways to treat heart attack patients.

Human heart tissue does not heal well after a heart attack, instead forming debilitating scars. For reasons not completely understood, however, stem cells can assist in this repair process by turning into the cells that make up healthy heart tissue, including heart muscle and blood vessels. Recently, doctors elsewhere have reported promising early results in the use of cardiac stem cells to curb the formation of unhealthy scar tissue after a heart attack. But the discovery of a "master molecule" that guides the destiny of these stem cells could result in even more effective treatments for heart patients, the Johns Hopkins researchers say.

In a study published in the June 5 online edition of the journal Science Signaling, the team reported that tinkering with a protein molecule called p190RhoGAP shaped the development of cardiac stem cells, prodding them to become the building blocks for either blood vessels or heart muscle. The team members said that by altering levels of this protein, they were able to affect the future of these stem cells.

"In biology, finding a central regulator like this is like finding a pot of gold," said Andre Levchenko, a biomedical engineering professor and member of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Cell Engineering, who supervised the research effort.

The lead author of the journal article, Kshitiz, a postdoctoral fellow who uses only his first name, said, "Our findings greatly enhance our understanding of stem cell biology and suggest innovative new ways to control the behavior of cardiac stem cells before and after they are transplanted into a patient. This discovery could significantly change the way stem cell therapy is administered in heart patients."

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Contact: Phil Sneiderman
prs@jhu.edu
443-287-9960
Johns Hopkins University
Source:Eurekalert

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