A multidisciplinary team working at Pennsylvania State University claim to have used human stem cells to regenerate the cells that cover the external surface of a human heart. The new research may one day help replace damaged tissues caused by a heart attack or genetic defects.
Building upon previous research into what is known as Wnt signaling pathways (a group of protein conduits that allow signals to enter a cell via cell-surface receptors), the researchers found that the action of certain chemicals on these pathways effectively turned the cardiac stem cells into myocardium cells (which make up the middle of the heart’s three layers of muscle), which they can then transform into epicardium (outer layer) cells.
In 2012, we discovered that if we treated human stem cells with chemicals that sequentially activate and inhibit Wnt signaling pathway, they become myocardium muscle cells,” said Xiaojun Lance Lian, assistant professor of biomedical engineering and biology, leader of the study at Penn State. “We needed to provide the cardiac progenitor cells with additional information in order for them to generate into epicardium cells, but prior to this study, we didn’t know what that information was. “Now, we know that if we activate the cells’ Wnt signaling pathway again, we can re-drive these cardiac progenitor cells to become epicardium cells, instead of myocardium cells.”
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