Scientists transform skin tissue into healthy heart muscle

23 May 2012

People with heart problems could soon see their skin tissue transformed into fresh, beating heart cells to enhance their treatment.

Lior Gepstein, a cardiologist at Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, led a team of scientists to demonstrate the potential medical breakthrough.

In the procedure, the team first took skin cells from two men, aged 51 and 61, who were recovering from a heart attack. These cells were then reprogrammed with the aid of a virus that carried three pluripotency genes.

As a result, the scientists were then able to grow induced pluripotent stem cells to transform the cells into fresh heart muscle, with the virus then ejected once the alteration was complete.

Commenting on the procedure to The Guardian, Mr Gepstein noted: "What was interesting was the cells could integrate with the tissue and contract in synchrony. If you put the cells in and they beat with a completely different timing, you wouldn't see any improvement in heart function and may even cause a dangerous arrhythmia."

In order to reduce the risk of contracting heart problems, the British Heart Foundation recently warned that high cholesterol can increase the risk of someone suffering circulatory disease.

Posted by Jeanette Royston

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