A group of stem cell experts from Hong Kong and the United States are trying to grow parts of the human heart from stem cells, and estimate that they could be tested in humans in about five years.

Scientists have managed to develop basic cardiac muscle from stem cells, but the team wants to perfect the technique to be able to replace any part of the organ that has suffered damage after a heart attack, and recreate the natural pacemaker in which the heartbeat originates.

As the leader of the team and director of the Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Consortium of the University of Hong Kong, Ronald Li, explains, "when someone suffers a heart attack, there is a small window of time to heal when the damage is still small. You can cure it with a patch, a small tissue, so that it does not progress to heart failure. "

"Now we have the piece of muscle, but we want to imitate better what we see in the original heart and that requires engineering," Li says, adding that "there are many different types of heart cells, if the cells that are responsible for electricity They do not work well, you have arrhythmias or heart rhythm problems, there are muscle cells in the heart that do mechanical pumping that work all the time. "

The researchers explain that an organ or piece of tissue created from the stem cells of a person can, in general, be surgically implanted in that same person

The researchers explain that an organ or piece of tissue created from the stem cells of a person can, in general, be surgically implanted in that same person. The team will use approved lots of human embryonic stem cells to generate these pieces of human heart muscle and natural pacemakers for people with arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeats. To test the effectiveness of the treatment, the scientists plan to transplant these pieces of muscle and pacemakers into pigs and, if successful, in about five years they would go on to perform clinical trials with humans in which they would transplant the developed parts of the heart with the patients' own stem cells.

"The point is if we can place it in the heart so that it integrates with the receiving organ, even if it is integrated, will it last?" Said Li. He adds that, "the team chose pigs because porcine hearts are anatomically and functionally more similar to humans."

Li calculates that in five years they will have a number of drafts to design different prototypes that can be tested. Stem cells are the source of all the cells and tissues of the body, so they can become any cell type of the organ in which they originate. Thanks to their regenerative capacity to generate different types of cells, to multiply and self-regenerate, scientists hope to achieve that stem cells can treat a series of diseases, including cancer, diabetes and spinal injuries.

Source: EUROPE PRESS

Sporty Stem Cells: how stem cells make muscle (November 2019).