Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells Improve Hearts

Mayo Clinic Investigators have shown that induced pluripotent stem cells, which were made from particular cells in the skin called “fibroblasts,” were differentiated into heart muscle cells and used to treat mice with heart disease. This proof-of-principle study shows that is might be possible to use iPSCs to fix hearts after a heart attack with iPSCs.

Timothy Nelson, the principal author of this study, said that this study “establishes the real potential for using iPS cells in cardiac treatment. iPSCs have already been used to treat sickly cell anemia, Parkinson’s disease and hemophilia A in laboratory mice. This experiment, which was also done in mice, further extends the clinical conditions that iPSCs might treat.

This is an exciting result, but there is a caveat I must mention. Christine Mummery and her colleagues have shown that even though human embryonic stem cell transplantation improves the condition of the heart after a heart attack in rodents after four weeks, examination of these same rodents twelve weeks after the transplants reveals that the improvements have largely disappeared.  In this study, the mice were examined after four weeks and not after twelve. Therefore, this study might be in the same category as those done with human embryonic stem cells. If the improvements could be shown to last even up to twelve weeks after the transplantations, then I think we would have something really to crow about. However, as it is, while this result is interesting, it is simply not conclusive.


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Professor of Biochemistry at Spring Arbor University (SAU) in Spring Arbor, MI. Have been at SAU since 1999. Author of The Stem Cell Epistles. Before that I was a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, PA (1997-1999), and Sussex University, Falmer, UK (1994-1997). I studied Cell and Developmental Biology at UC Irvine (PhD 1994), and Microbiology at UC Davis (MA 1986, BS 1984).