Around 610,000 people die from heart disease in the U.S. every year thats one in every four deaths. Its proving to be a particularly difficult medical problem: Damage to the heart is almost always irreversible, as heart cells cannot regenerate themselves.

This crippling lack of regeneration, however, could soon be a thing of the past, as researchers have discovered how to make a remarkable new type of cell that may let hearts to repair themselves. The new examine, published in the periodical Cell Stem Cell, reveals that these transplantable cells are produced using a revolutionary new technique, which allows researchers to temporarily freeze a stem cell in its development.

Heart failing( HF ), wherein the heart is overworked or the supply of oxygenated blood to it is too low, causes a huge loss of heart muscle cells known as cardiomyocytes( CMs ). You lose at least a billion heart cells in one heart attack, Dr. Sheng Ding, a prof at the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease and coordinating writer of the study, told IFLScience.

Not only can these CMs not be regenerated by the heart, but they cannot even be replaced by newinjected CMs. Transplanted new heart cells into the patients heart dont survive within a day or two, most are lost, Ding said.

Dings team thought that one potential way to overcome this matter would be to use cells called progenitors.Although similar to a pluripotent stem cell, which can become any cellfound in the human body, these progenitor cellsare somewhat differentiated, namely they are already programmed to become a specific target cell including heart cells.

Three types of key heart cells built use the new CPCs: the cardiomyocytes( for heart muscles) and the endothelial and vascular smooth muscle cells( to construct blood vessels ). Ding et al ./ Cell Stem Cell

Cardiovascular progenitor cells( CPCs) are naturally produced under the heart forms within the embryo, and they go on to form all necessary heart cell types, including CMs. Employing a cocktail of pharmaceutical narcotics, they were able to produce these CPCs in the lab from stem cells, halting their natural development into fullyfunctioning heart cells. These lab-made cells are known as induced expandable CPCs.

Not only can these CPCs be induced to become new heart cells, but they are in a position replicate indefinitely, potentially meaning that damaged hearts can be injected with self-repairing biological material. In order to test their theory, a solution containing such CPCslocked in to becoming the full range of heart cellswere injected into a mouse after it had suffered from a heart attack.

Incredibly, 90 percent of these new cells spontaneously transformed into functioning heart cells, making new blood vessels and producing new muscular tissue. Compared to the injection of stem cells, which require a complex series of signals to begin developing into heart cells, this is a huge improvement.

Heart function was improved in the mouse for at least three months. As the original stem cells were sourced from skin cells, this raises a tantalizing future possibility: A patients own skin cells could be used to treat their own heart disease.

I predict that in the next couple of years we will be able to make human CPCs in a very similar manner, Sheng said. Human trials will follow after that.

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