Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Purified heart cells from human embryonic stem cells

Earlier this week, a team from South San Fransisco-based VistaGen and Toronto's McEwen Centre published a paper in the October 23, 2011 Nature Biotechnology that could have important consequences for efforts to repair heart attack damage with stem cells. VistaGen has a CIRM Tools & Technologies award, though that award did not fund the work published this week.

The team, which was led by Gordon Keller at the University Health Network’s McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine in Toronto, developed a way of maturing embryonic stem cells into early heart cells and purifying them. They did this by first discovering a protien that's on the surface of early heart cells. They could then use antibodies to keep only those cells that have the protein and eliminate all cells without the protein. Creating pure populations of cells is critical for developig therapies, which need to be free of the original embryonic stem cells that can form tumors.

A press release from VistaGen described the technology:
These findings provide, for the first time, a simple method for isolating some of the earliest populations of cardiac precursors and mature cardiomyocytes from human pluripotent stem cell cultures. This readily adaptable technology offers a viable approach for generating large numbers of enriched, non-genetically modified, cardiomyocytes for numerous therapeutic applications.
Creating pure populations of cells is just the first step. Before the cells are shown to be therapeutically useful they must be able to integrate into the complex three-dimensional structure of the human heart and beat in time with the surrounding tissue.

A.A.

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