It is possible to create functioning cardiac cells from mouse skin cells, scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) have revealed.
The researchers have revealed that they began their study by reprogramming mouse skin cells so that they would have the same unlimited properties as embryonic stem cells.
They claim that their research is the first to demonstrate that induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) cells-which do not involve the use of embryos or eggs-can be differentiated into the three types of cardiovascular cells needed to repair the heart and blood vessels.
Dr. Robb MacLellan, senior author of the study, believes that this research may one day lead to clinical trials of new treatments for people who suffer heart attacks, have atherosclerosis, or are in heart failure.
Since the research team was also able to differentiate the iPS cells into several types of blood cells, adds MacLellan, there is a hope that this work may one day aid in treating blood diseases and in bone marrow transplantation.
"I believe iPS cells address many of the shortcomings of human embryonic stem cells and are the future of regenerative medicine," said MacLellan, an associate professor of cardiology and physiology.
"I'm hoping that these scientific findings are the first step towards one day developing new therapies that I can offer my patients. There are still many limitations with using iPS cells in clinical studies that we must overcome, but there are scientists in labs across the country working to address these issues right now," he added.
The study report, appearing in the online edition of the journal Stem Cells, also reveals that UCLA researchers are now trying to determine whether or not human iPS cells behave the same way as the mouse cells behave.
"Our hope is that, based on this work in mice, we can show that similar cardiovascular progenitor cells can be found in human iPS cells and, using a similar strategy, that we can isolate the progenitor cells and differentiate them into the cells types found in the human heart," MacLellan said.