Study Points To Potentially Powerful Tool to Treat Damaged Hearts (VIDEO)
Baltimore, MD - A type of cell that builds mouse hearts can renew itself, Johns Hopkins researchers report. According to the research team, the discovery, which likely applies to such cells in humans as well, may pave the way to using them to repair hearts damaged by disease — or even grow new heart tissue for transplantation.
In a study to be published in the journal eLife, the scientists also found that during heart formation, the cardiac progenitor cells (CPCs) multiply without becoming heart cells in a cellular environment known as the second pharyngeal arch. This insight into the biology of CPCs may contribute to better understanding of how to prevent and treat congenital heart defects, researchers say.
“Our finding that CPCs are self-renewing — that they can keep dividing to form new CPCs — means they might eventually be maintained in a dish and used to make specific types of heart cells,” says Chulan Kwon, Ph.D., an assistant professor of cardiology and member of the Institute for Cell Engineering at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “Growing such cells in a dish would be an enormous step toward better treatment for heart disease.”
Kwon’s research group’s first step was figuring out the role of two genes, Numb and Numbl, in CPCs, which others’ studies had shown are needed for guiding stem and progenitor cells to their fully mature, specialized functions. Numb and Numbl are highly conserved, meaning that they’re nearly identical in mice, humans and other animals, a sign that they’re likely very important. To find out whether these genes are required for heart formation, the group disabled Numb and Numbl in early CPCs in developing mouse embryos. “The embryos failed to develop normal hearts and died at an early stage of development, showing us that Numb and Numbl are needed for CPCs to build the heart,” Kwon says. Continue>
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