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Method Devised for Stem Cell Cardiac Muscle Patches

EKG (Photos8.com)

(Photos8.com)

Researchers from universities of Michigan and Wisconsin, with colleagues from Oxford and Imperial College in the U.K., have developed a process for creating from stem cells, heart muscle cells that mimic the heart’s pumping action. The findings, which include a technology to measure electrical activity in these created cells, are published as the cover story in the current issue of the journal Circulation Research.

The team led by Michigan medical school researcher Todd Herron used human induced pluripotent stem cells to generate a single layer of cardiomyocytes, the cells that make up cardiac heart muscle. The researchers used skin biopsies as the source of the stem cells, which were reprogrammed to produce the cardiomyocytes.

Herron notes that most earlier research examined the generation of single heart cells. “For potential stem cell-based cardiac regeneration therapies for heart disease,” says Herron, “it is critical to develop multi-cellular tissue like constructs that beat as a single unit.” As a result, the research team focused on generating large numbers of cardiac muscle cells that can transmit uniform electrical impulses and function as a unit.

The cell tissue created by Herron and colleagues beats at 60 beats per minute, a rate 10 times faster than most other stem-cell derived tissue, and closer to the human resting heart rate. While the rate is close, it is still a little lower than the normal resting rate, The researchers say the cell tissue they created can still be used with rodents in the lab for research purposes.

The team also created a fluorescent imaging system, using light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to measure the electrical activity of the cells, which they consider an important advance as well in the creation of stem-cell derived heart tissue. These technologies can be adapted for the use of cardiac stem cell patches in disease research, testing of new drug treatments, and therapies to repair damaged heart muscle.

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