Scar tissue in heart ‘reprogrammed’
Thursday 22nd August 2013, 5:11PM BST.
Inert scar tissue in the heart can be transformed into beating cells, scientists have shown.
Researchers in the US performed the feat using human cells in a laboratory dish.
They “reprogrammed” scar-forming fibroblast cells into the building blocks of beating heart muscle by injecting them with a cocktail of five genes.
Previously, they did the same in living mice using a three-gene combination.
Study leader Professor Deepak Srivastava, from the University of California in San Francisco, said: “Fibroblasts make up about 50% of all cells in the heart and therefore represent a vast pool of cells that could one day be harnessed and reprogrammed to create new muscle.
“Our findings here serve as a proof of concept that human fibroblasts can be reprogrammed successfully into beating heart cells.”
While most of the cells showed at least a partial transformation, a fifth of them were capable of transmitting electrical signals – a key feature of beating heart cells, the scientists writing in the journal Stem Cell Reports said.
Success rates might be improved by transforming fibroblasts in living hearts rather than a dish, they suggested.
“With more than five million heart attack survivors in the United States who have hearts that are no longer able to beat at full capacity, our findings… come at a critical time,” Dr Srivastava said.
“We’ve now laid a solid foundation for developing a way to reverse the damage – something previously thought impossible – and changing the way that doctors treat heart attacks in the future.”