Epicardium Cells Grown From Stem Cells

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Highlights
  • Scientists devise a method for growing stem cells into epicardium cells, which is the outer layer of the heart
  • These stem cells were induced to grow into heart muscle cells by altering the Wnt pathway
  • When the transforming growth factor inhibitor was added, the cells continued to grow for over 50 days
Scientists have successfully designed a method by which human stem cells can be used to generate the epicardium cells or the cells covering the outer surface of a human heart. Dr. Xiaojun Lance Lian who is the assistant professor of biomedical engineering said that in 2012, the research team had discovered that if they treated human stem cells with specific chemicals which sequentially activated and inhibited the Wnt signaling pathway, they developed into myocardium cells. The myocardium which is the muscular part of the heart and which pumps the blood to the various parts of the body, constitutes the middle layer of the heart's three layers.
Epicardium Cells Grown From Stem Cells

The Wnt signaling pathway that constitutes a group of signal transduction pathways is made up of proteins use cell surface receptors to introduce signals into a cell. Dr. Lian said that in order to generate the epicardium cells, they needed to provide cardiac progenitor cells with more information. Initially, the researchers did not know what information they needed to provide but they soon realized that if they activated the Wnt signaling pathway once again, they could make these cardiac progenitor cells to develop into myocardium cells.

The results of the study were published in the Journal Nature Biomedical Engineering, was a significant step in moving towards regeneration of an entire heart. The epicardium cells were found to be similar to the epicardium cells found in the human heart using functional assay as well as morphological assessment.

The Layer Left- Endocardium

Dr. Lian states that the only layer left to grow is the endocardium which is the innermost layer of the heart. The results of the study that showed the successful growth of the epicardium has useful and practical applications in the treatment of heart conditions, especially in patients who suffer a heart attack.

Potential Therapeutic Use

When an individual suffers a heart attack due to the blocked blood vessels, nutrients and oxygen do not reach the heart muscle, resulting in the death of the heart muscles. This is a permanent damage as the heart muscles cannot regrow, which can further increase the problems associated with a heart attack. The epicardium cells that were grown in the current study could be injected into the heart and the muscles potentially restored.

Reporter Cells

The research team altered the human stem cells to become reporter cells which meant that they would become fluorescent when they developed into epicardium cells. The cells were treated with differential cell signaling molecules and were then treated with Wnt signaling activators which resulted in the fluorescence.

Continuous proliferation

The cells could also be maintained by continuing to generate epicardium cells by treating the cells with a Transforming Growth Factor Beta (TGF) inhibitor. Even after a period of 50 days, the cells continued to proliferate with no signs of lowered proliferation. The cells that were not treated with the TGF inhibitor began to lower proliferation levels after a period of 10 days.

The future holds a lot of promise as the research team continues its effort to grow the inner layer of the heart. If the inner layer of the heart can also be grown, then the possibility of growing a new heart just seems possible.

Stem Cells in the Treatment of Myocardial Infarction

The use of stem cells in people with myocardial repair has always been a much talked about the procedure. There are various sources of stem cells, like the embryonic stem cells, bone marrow stem cells and the fetal stem cells. The most ideal stem cells are found to be induced pluripotent stem cells and embryonic stem cells.

Bone marrow stem cells can either be used for functional recovery or can be used to promote angiogenesis. The success in the use of these stem cells in pre-clinical studies resulted in a large number of clinical trials that were aimed at identifying the efficacy of treatment.  Numerous studies have shown that the use of stem cells may be safe but there is little that is understood about the dosage and the time of application of these cells.

The current study that focuses on the growth and differentiation of stem cells into specific cells of the heart, namely the epicardium, results in a more specific treatment method. Heart attack is a frequent phenomenon with a considerable number of people being affected by the condition. The destruction of the cardiac muscle cells is a major setback for people who have suffered a heart attack. However, the introduction of lab-grown epicardium cells would aid in renewing the ability of the heart muscles to function normally. Moreover, continued research that identifies a method to grow a heart in the lab could dramatically improve cardiac care and therapy.

References:
  1. Stem Cell Therapy: A New Approach for Treatment of Myocardial Infarction - (https:www.omicsonline.org/stem-cell-therapy-a-new-approach-for-treatment-of-myocardial-infarction-2157-7633.S1-004.php?aid=2583)
Source: Medindia

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