Scientists, including one of Indian-origin, have developed a new technique that can be used to convert cells from heart disease patients into heart muscle cells to act as a personalised treatment for their condition. Researchers have previously reported the ability to convert scar-forming cells in the heart (called fibroblasts) into new, beating muscle in mice that had experienced heart attacks, thereby regenerating a heart from within. They accomplished this by injecting a combination of three genes into the animals' fibroblast cells.
"This gene therapy approach resulted in new cardiac muscle cells that beat in synchrony with neighbouring muscle cells and ultimately improved the pumping function of the heart," said senior author Dr Deepak Srivastava of the Gladstone Institutes and its affiliate, the University of California, San Francisco.
In the new study, Srivastava and his colleagues coaxed fibroblasts from human foetal heart cells, embryonic stem cells, and newborn skin grown in the lab to become heart muscle cells using a slightly different combination of genes, representing an important step toward the use of this technology for regenerative medicine. The team envisions that introducing these genes into damaged hearts by gene therapy might convert fibroblasts into new muscle, thereby improving the function of the heart.
"Over 50 per cent of the cells in the human heart are fibroblasts, providing a vast pool of cells that could be harnessed to create new muscle," said Srivastava. However, additional research is needed to improve the process of reprogramming adult human cells in this way. The research was published in the journal of the International Society of Stem Cell Research, Stem Cell Reports, published by Cell Press.