Embryonic stem cells from mice that are capable of differentiating into mature cardiac muscles have been isolated by scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and the Harvard Stem Cell Institute.
This work attains significance because the cells identified by the researchers can be a powerful tool in animal models of heart disease, may pave the way for identifying the equivalent cells in humans, and one day aid human heart transplants.
While presenting the research team's findings at a Beijing meeting, Ibrahim Domian of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston said that they had had isolated embryonic stem cells from those mice and identified different progenitor populations that express different sets of genes.
The researcher revealed that, in culture, the cells divided for a few days before differentiating into mature cardiac muscles.
The researchers also found that cardiac myocetes, the type of heart muscle cells that are capable of coordinated contraction, derived from these progenitor cells contracted with a level of force - the defining characteristic of cardiac muscle - that was the same as neonatal cardiac myocytes.
Domian declined to discuss details, stating that the results are under review at a journal.
"This is a very interesting study," Nature magazine quoted Ulrich Martin, a stem-cell researcher at Hannover Medical School, Germany, who was not involved with the research, as saying.