A Canadian, US and British research team has successfully grown three types of human heart cells from cultures derived from embryonic stem cells. The achievement is another step towards the test-tube creation of functioning heart tissue for transplants.
Researchers led by Gordon Keller created the cells by supplying embryonic stem cell cultures with a cocktail of growth factors and other molecules involved in development. By supplying the right growth factors at the right time during development, they encouraged the cells to grow into 'progenitors' of three different types of cardiac cell, called cardiomyocytes, endothelial cells and vascular smooth muscle cells - each an important constituent of functioning heart muscle.
As Keller and colleagues describe in Nature, these three cell types could be individually produced by isolating particular types of progenitors, which will help researchers to understand heart development in more detail. What's more, when the team transplanted a mixture of the three cell types into mice with simulated heart disease, their heart function was significantly improved, offering hope to those aiming to develop this technique for treating human hearts.
Gordon Keller (McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine, Toronto, ON, Canada)
Abstract available online.
(C) Nature press release.
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