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UC Davis researchers find evidence of mature heart cell potential in embryonic stem cells
Date:11/27/2007

(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) -- In a new study, UC Davis researchers report the first functional evidence that heart cells derived from human embryonic stem cells exhibit one of the most critical properties of mature adult heart cells, an important biological process called excitation-contraction coupling.

The finding gives scientists hope that these cells can one day be coaxed into becoming functionally viable cells safe for transplantation into the damaged hearts of patients with end-stage disease, potentially avoiding the necessity of a heart transplant. Currently, there are nearly 3,000 people on heart transplant lists around the nation, including more than 300 in California.

UC Davis research scientist Ronald Li and his colleagues write in their study, Functional Sarcoplasmic Reticulum for Calcium-Handling of Human Embryonic Stem Cell-Derived Cardiomyocytes: Insights for Driven Maturation, that they observed cells that had begun the maturation process toward becoming heart cells. The article, available online in Stem Cell Express, http://stemcells.alphamedpress.org/, will be published in the December issue of the journal Stem Cells.

Previous experiments were able to derive heart cells from human embryonic stem cells, said Li, who is an associate professor of cell biology and human anatomy at UC Davis School of Medicine and senior author of the study, but those cells always remained too immature to be of any therapeutic use and actually could cause lethal arrhythmias in animal models. Now, what weve been able to do is push the therapeutic potential of human embryonic stem cells further so that eventually they might be used safely, and with enhanced efficacy, in transplantation cases.

The main function of the heart is to mechanically pump blood in a highly coordinated fashion throughout the body. To do this, heart cells must receive electrical signals and co
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Contact: Charles Casey
charles.casey@ucdmc.ucdavis.edu
916-734-9048
University of California - Davis - Health System
Source:Eurekalert

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