In a breakthrough finding, scientists have zeroed in on cardiac master cells that could develop into several heart tissues. This has been discovered by different groups of researchers who have been putting their independent efforts to uncover two basic contenders.
Research teams from Massachusetts General Hospital have recognized a variety of progenitor cell in mice, and have demonstrated that this could develop into cardiac muscle, endothelial cells or smooth muscle. The second type, uncovered by researchers from Children's Hospital Boston, was also found to be shaping up into cardiac and smooth muscle.
Dr Stuart Orkin, from the Children's Hospital team, said: "Previously, it had been thought that each cell type in the heart had a different origin. Now, it's pretty clear that some have common origins. Instead of multiple different cell types migrating and coming together to form the heart, the heart comes from stem cells that give rise to multiple cell types in the same local environment - a simpler way of building the organ. And because these cells can make multiple cell types, they could be more useful in repairing the heart than any single kind of cell."
The researchers are yet to ascertain the exact relationship between the two categories of master cells, though they know that one creates structures on the left-hand side of the heart, and another forms structures on the right. Nevertheless, this discovery is a forerunner to potential strategies to rectify an injured heart.