Heart disease remains one the biggest killers in the Western world.
When a heart attack or heart failure occurs, permanent damage often affects the heart, destroying live cells and leaving the patient with irreversible scarring. This scarring can often lead to a terminal condition or increase the risk of danger of future heart attacks. Now scientists at the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease (GICD) have discovered a new technique to create healthy beating heart cells from structural cells. These advancements mean that in the future doctors could be able to repair damaged hearts.
Our human heart comprises of cardiomyocytes (beating heart cells) and cardiac fibroblasts, which provide a support structure and secrete signals. In research published in the current issue of the Journal Cell, scientists were able to successfully reprogram fibroblasts within the heart to transform them into cardiomyocytes.
“Scientists have tried for 20 years to convert nonmuscle cells into heart muscle, but it turns out we just needed the right combination of genes at the right dose,” said lead researcher Dr. Masaki Ieda.
With this success of these trials the researchers have discovered evidence which would suggest that independent adult cells within the body can be reprogrammed from one cell type to another whilst by-passing the stem cell state. This discovery could have repercussions in all areas of medicine. Whilst direct cellular reprogramming may erase the issues involving the use of stem cells, it could also remove the risk that some stem cells may later develop into tumors.