Researchers have discovered a cocktail of proteins that triggers the production of new heart muscle cells. The discovery, reported in Nature, might be an important first step towards making new, therapeutically useful heart cells via cellular reprogramming.
Jun Takeuchi and Benoit Bruneau identified three proteins that, together, direct the differentiation of mouse embryonic cells into beating heart cells. The proteins are a mix of transcription factors, which bind to DNA and influence gene expression, and a heart-specific chromatin-remodelling protein.
The heart has little regenerative capacity after damage, so understanding the factors needed to produce new heart cells is of great interest. Although the authors used mesoderm cells (the middle embryonic tissue layer that gives rise to muscle, bone and connective tissue) as their starting point, in theory the paper provides a potential ‘recipe' that could be used to reprogram other cell types to become heart muscle cells, a major goal of cell therapy
Benoit Bruneau (Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease, San Francisco, CA, USA)
Abstract available online.
(C) Nature press release.
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