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New stem cell technique promises abundance of key heart cells
Date:5/28/2012

MADISON -- Cardiomyocytes, the workhorse cells that make up the beating heart, can now be made cheaply and abundantly in the laboratory.

Writing this week (May 28, 2012) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team of Wisconsin scientists describes a way to transform human stem cells -- both embryonic and induced pluripotent stem cells -- into the critical heart muscle cells by simple manipulation of one key developmental pathway. The technique promises a uniform, inexpensive and far more efficient alternative to the complex bath of serum or growth factors now used to nudge blank slate stem cells to become specialized heart cells.

"Our protocol is more efficient and robust," explains Sean Palecek, the senior author of the new report and a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of chemical and biological engineering. "We have been able to reliably generate greater than 80 percent cardiomyocytes in the final population while other methods produce about 30 percent cardiomyocytes with high batch-to-batch variability."

The ability to make the key heart cells in abundance and in a precisely defined way is important because it shows the potential to make the production of large, uniform batches of cardiomyocytes routine, according to Palecek. The cells are in great demand for research, and increasingly for the high throughput screens used by the pharmaceutical industry to test drugs and potential drugs for toxic effects.

The capacity to make the heart cells using induced pluripotent stem cells, which can come from adult patients with diseased hearts, means scientists will be able to more readily model those diseases in the laboratory. Such cells contain the genetic profile of the patient, and so can be used to recreate the disease in the lab dish for study. Cardiomyocytes are difficult or impossible to obtain directly from the hearts of patients and, when obtained, survive only briefly in the lab
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Contact: Sean Palecek
palecek@engr.wisc.edu
608-262-8931
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Source:Eurekalert

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