Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Taken to Heart
18 August 2012

Taken to Heart

Stem cells are the body’s ultimate transformers. They can be coaxed to become brain cells for treating diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, or pancreatic cells for treating diabetes. Now researchers have isolated them from a heart patient’s skin and steered them in the lab to become healthy heart muscle (shown in pink). The large rounded shapes among the muscle cells pictured are mitochondria [the cell’s power stations], which fuel this restless tissue. Using a patient's own stem cells to make new heart cells means there would be no risk of rejection. Scientists tested the effectiveness of the lab-grown cells in a rat and found they make connections with surrounding cardiac tissue; what’s more they can beat. With heart failure on the increase in the UK as the ageing population grows this procedure holds promise for an effective cure in the future.

Written by Jessica Langley-Hunt

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