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Using own skin cells to repair hearts on horizon
Date:3/2/2010

HOUSTON, March 2, 2010 A heart patient's own skin cells soon could be used to repair damaged cardiac tissue thanks to pioneering stem cell research of the University of Houston's newest biomedical scientist, Robert Schwartz.

His new technique for reprogramming human skin cells puts him at the forefront of a revolution in medicine that could one day lead to treatments for Alzheimer's, diabetes, muscular dystrophy and many other diseases.

Schwartz brings his ground-breaking research to UH as the Cullen Distinguished Professor of Biology and Biochemistry and head of UH's new Center for Gene Regulation and Molecular Therapeutics. He also is affiliated with the Texas Heart Institute at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital in the Texas Medical Center, where he is director of stem cell engineering.

"Professor Schwartz's work will save lives, and his decision to pursue this pioneering research at UH is a big leap forward on our way to Tier-One status," said John Bear, dean of the UH College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. "Together with the many other outstanding scientists we've assembled here, Schwartz will help make this university a major player in medical research."

Schwartz devised a method for turning ordinary human skin cells into heart cells. The cells developed are similar to embryonic stem cells and ultimately can be made into early-stage heart cells derived from a patient's own skin. These then could be implanted and grown into fully developed beating heart cells, reversing the damage caused by previous heart attacks. These new cells would replace the damaged cardiac tissue that weakens the heart's ability to pump, develops into scar tissue and causes arrhythmias. Early clinical trials using these reprogrammed cells on actual heart patients could begin within one or two years.

Although Schwartz is not the first scientist to turn adult cells into such stem cells, his improved method could pave t
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Contact: Lisa Merkl
lkmerkl@uh.edu
713-743-8192
University of Houston
Source:Eurekalert  

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