Thanks to a pioneering stem cell research, it may soon be possible to turn ordinary human skin cells into early-stage heart cells, claims a scientist.
The new technique for reprogramming human skin cells by Robert Schwartz, University of Houston biomedical scientist, puts him at the forefront of a revolution in medicine that could one day lead to treatments for Alzheimer's, diabetes, muscular dystrophy and many other diseases.
Schwartz brings his ground-breaking research to UH as the Cullen Distinguished Professor of Biology and Biochemistry and head of UH's new Center for Gene Regulation and Molecular Therapeutics.
Schwartz devised a method for turning ordinary human skin cells into heart cells. The cells developed are similar to embryonic stem cells and ultimately can be made into early-stage heart cells derived from a patient's own skin. These then could be implanted and grown into fully developed beating heart cells, reversing the damage caused by previous heart attacks. These new cells would replace the damaged cardiac tissue that weakens the heart's ability to pump, develops into scar tissue and causes arrhythmias.
Early clinical trials using these reprogrammed cells on actual heart patients could begin within one or two years.
Schwartz's method requires fewer steps and yields more stem cells. Armed with an effective way to make induced stem cells from a patient's own skin, scientists can then begin the work of growing all kinds of human cells.