Heart muscle cell grafts 'combat arrhythmias after heart attacks'

Heart muscle cell grafts could be used to combat arrhythmias after a heart attack, a new study has indicated.

Grafts of human cardiac muscle cells, which have been grown from embryonic stem cells, were transplanted into guinea pigs, and were found to couple electrically and contract synchronously with the host muscle, according to research published in the journal Nature.

Furthermore, the graft also cut the incidence of irregular heart rhythms, known as arrhythmias, in a guinea pig model of a heart attack.

Senior author, Dr Michael Laflamme, of the University of Washington, said: "These results provide strong evidence that human cardiac muscle cell grafts meet physiological criteria for true heart regeneration.

"This supports the continued development of human embryonic stem cell-based heart therapies for both mechanical and electrical repair of the heart."

During a myocardial infarction, the flow of oxygen-rich blood going to the heart muscle is interrupted due to the formation of a clot, which causes the death of the down-stream heart muscle and its replacement by scar tissue.

This can lead to mechanical problems when it comes to filling and emptying the heart, while also interfering with the electrical signals that pace the heartbeat.

Posted by Edward Bartel

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