In a major breakthrough in stem cell research, Dutch scientists have successfully harvested stem cells from adult human heart and converted them into new heart muscle cells.
The team at University Medical Centre Utrecht and the Hubrecht Institute derived the stem cells from material left over from open-heart operations.
The researchers at UMC Utrecht used a simple method to isolate the stem cells from this material and reproduce them in the laboratory, which they then allowed to develop.
The study showed that cells grew into fully developed heart muscle cells that contract rhythmically, respond to electrical activity, and react to adrenaline.
"We've got complete control of this process, and that's unique," said Prof. Pieter Doevendans, principal investigator.
"We're able to make heart muscle cells in unprecedented quantities, and on top of it they're all the same. This is good news in terms of treatment, as well as for scientific research and testing of potentially new drugs," e added.
Doevendans would be conducting further studies with the help of cultured heart muscle cells to examine conditions like cardiac arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythms).
They hope that the new heart muscle cells can likely be used to repair heart tissue damaged during a heart attack.
The findings are published in the latest issue of the journal Stem Cell Research.