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Eureka! Skin cells turn into beating heart

Nikita Mishra http://nikitamishra

Updated: May 24, 2012, 4:47 PM IST
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The heart cells created from patients' skin are at the same stage of development as those of a newborn baby. The study is exciting for India which has 60% of world's heart patients. It's a medical first. In a groundbreaking research, scientists have turned patients' own skin cells into fresh beating heart muscle in the lab.

A team of scientists from Israel took skin cells from two men with heart failure and mixed the cells up with a cocktail of genes and chemicals in the lab to create the stem cell treatment. The cells that they created were amazingly identical to healthy heart muscle cells! When these beating cells were transplanted into a rat, they started to make connections with the surrounding heart tissue. And since the transplanted cells are from the patient's own tissues this could negate the problem of tissue rejection by the body. The research has been published in the European Heart Journal.

Ultimately it is hoped that this stem cell therapy could help millions of patients suffering from heart failure. For us here in India, the study is exciting because heart attacks are hitting younger than ever before. With 60% of the world's heart patient population being from India, this research could open new avenues for future treatment of heart failure.

And in the current scenario, this finding is quite important because HEART FAILURE CANNOT BE TREATED WITH DRUGS or anything less than a pacemaker. There is a rare possibility of a heart transplant but then how many people can actually afford or access that? And then, that too involves the long wait for a suitable organ donor and the risk of living on immunosupprants for life.

This new research is a very promising area of study but it has to overcome major hurdles before doctors can begin human clinical trials. One of the major concern is, what if the reprogrammed cells start growing into tumours when implanted in patients?

Making enough cells quickly will be another hurdle. In this study, researchers injected a few million cells into rats, but a heart attack kills around a quarter of the four billion heart muscle cells. Scientists took two weeks to make heart cells from skin tissue, so at this stage, a patient cannot be treated soon after having an attack.

But with large-scale R&D, in the coming decade, the possibility for a heart attack patient to have the most vital organ in their body, repaired from their own cells, is huge!

What do you think about this research? Drop in your comments here or mail me at nikita.mishra777@gmail.com

First Published: May 24, 2012, 4:47 PM IST

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