The Minnesota work "fits right in with other work in regenerative medicine," said Dr. Stephen Badylak, a professor of surgery at the University of Pittsburgh McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine. The center, like a number of relatively new facilities around the country, concentrates on work with stem cells, which have the potential of becoming almost any specialized cell within the body.
"Stem cells will respond depending on what they see around them," Badylak said. "What they are doing is to provide a lot of favorable signals for stem cells to become heart cells. They take stem cells that want to become heart cells and make them act appropriately. It sounds great."
In the United States, 5 million people live with heart failure, and roughly 50,000 of those patients die each year while awaiting a donor heart, according to the study.
The newly reported work "provides great proof of principle that you can get heart tissue to form," Badylak said. "The next key is to say how you can use this information therapeutically. The next proof of principle is to put it into a patient that needs it."
The schedule for such an attempt is not clear, Taylor said. "We are certainly several years away, but not tens of years away" from a human transplant trial, she noted.
Basic facts about stem cells are provided by the National Institutes of Health.
SOURCES: Doris Taylor, Ph.D., director, University of Minnesota Center for Cardiovascular Repair, Minneapolis/St. Paul; Stephen Badylak, M.D., professor, surger
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