'Epicardial' heart tissue cells help create life-like heart muscle with promising transplant potential
Three years, that's the average wait for a heart transplant in the UK. Heart tissue grafts could potentially reduce the need for transplants. Researchers investigate how to do this by focusing on a tissue essential for heart development which surrounds the heart muscle, the epicardium. Using human stem cells, the team generated cells capable of maturing into epicardial cells, PECs. PECs were grown alongside cardiomyocytes (pictured), cells that form heart muscle, and encouraged to mature by adding different factors. The result: a mass of cells that could beat together, contract and control calcium levels — all features of real heart tissue. Using fluorescent staining of proteins, PECs were shown to release IGF2, a protein that encouraged cardiomyocytes to divide. A 3D version of this model produced sphere-like masses that mimicked heart tissue with internal chambers. PECs are therefore important in organising lab-generated heart tissue and may help create better heart tissue grafts.
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