A new method has been devised by an Indian origin researcher which allows complete reprogramming of skin cells such that they become almost completely indistinguishable from heart cells.
These findings by scientists at the Gladstone Institutes, based on animal models, offer newfound optimism in the hunt for a way to regenerate muscle lost in a heart attack.
The reprogramming of skin cells into heart cells, an approach pioneered by Gladstone Investigator, Deepak Srivastava, MD, has required the insertion of several genetic factors to spur the reprogramming process.
However, scientists have recognized potential problems with scaling this gene-based method into successful therapies. So some experts, including Gladstone Senior Investigator Sheng Ding, PhD, have taken a somewhat different approach.
The research team used skin cells extracted from adult mice to screen for chemical compounds, so-called 'small molecules,' that could replace the genetic factors.
"After testing various combinations of small molecules, we narrowed down the list to a four-molecule 'cocktail,' which we called SPCF, that could guide the skin cells into becoming more like heart cells," lead author, Haixia Wang, said.
"These newly reprogramed cells exhibited some of the twitching and contracting normally seen in mature heart cells, but the transformation wasn't entirely complete."
The study was published in the journal Cell Reports.