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

ntract in response to those signals. This link, called the excitation-contraction coupling, is dependent on the cells ability to move calcium ions across an internal organelle known as sarcoplasmic reticulum, or the so-called calcium store. The ability to handle calcium is disrupted in the cells of patients who experience heart failure. For future stem-cell based therapies to work, scientists will need to have heart cells that exhibit mature excitation-contraction coupling.

Until now, researchers studying heart cells (also called cardiomyocytes) derived from human embryonic stem cells have been unable to find evidence of functional calcium stores. Li found protein functions that are involved in the early stages of this coupling process. He and his colleagues now plan to move on and engineer the calcium-handling properties in order to enhance contractile properties in cardiomyocytes for both improved safety and functional efficacy.

In the current study, Li and his colleagues took human embryonic stem cells and grew them in cultures, allowing them to differentiate, or develop, into heart cells. Once they had these tiny, pulsing masses, the investigators energized the cells with small amounts of electrical current and chemicals, including caffeine. They then measured how the amount of intracellular calcium changed and looked for the presence of proteins and cellular structures known to be involved in excitation-contraction coupling.

Li and his colleagues are the first to find evidence of the functional calcium stores for excitation-contraction coupling, They also found four of the seven key proteins that play key roles in handling calcium in the cell, as well as functional sarcoplasmic reticulum.

The UC Davis researchers used different cell lines than those utilized in previous studies, which they say may explain why they were able to achieve a breakthrough in their investigation where others had not.


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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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