Scientists have for the first time succeeded in taking skin cells from patients with heart failure and transforming them into healthy, beating heart tissue that could one day be used to treat the condition.
The researchers, based in Haifa, Israel, said there were still many years of testing and refining ahead. But the results meant they might eventually be able to reprogram patients’ cells to repair their own damaged hearts.
“We have shown that it’s possible to take skin cells from an elderly patient with advanced heart failure and end up with his own beating cells in a laboratory dish that are healthy and young – the equivalent to the stage of his heart cells when he was just born,” said Lior Gepstein from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, who led the work.
The researchers, whose study was published in the European Heart Journal on Wednesday, said clinical trials of the technique could begin within 10 years. …
Gepstein’s team took skin cells from two men with heart failure – aged 51 and 61 – and transformed them by adding three genes and then a small molecule called valproic acid to the cell nucleus.
They found that the resulting hiPSCs were able to differentiate to become heart muscle cells, or cardiomyocytes, just as effectively as hiPSCs that had been developed from healthy, young volunteers who acted as controls for the study.
The team was then able to make the cardiomyocytes develop into heart muscle tissue, which they grew in a laboratory dish together with existing cardiac tissue.
Within 24 to 48 hours the two types of tissue were beating together, they said.