UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — Stem cells are able to turn into almost any type of cell in the body. They have established themselves as an invaluable tool for research and treatment of diseases. For several years, scientists have been trying to find a way to use stem cells also to “repair” the heart after a heart attack.
However, this turned out to be a much more difficult task than one might have expected. But now, researchers at the same time made two whole breakthroughs in this area.
First, scientists have proved that a damaged heart needs not only new cardiomyocytes (muscle cells of the heart), but also new epicardial cells present in the pericardial space.
“One of the missing pieces of the heart regeneration puzzle is the epicardial cell,” says a statement from Charles Merry of the University of Washington School of Medicine. “We found that epicardial cells, in addition to cardiomyocytes, markedly improve the ability of heart muscle cells to restore rat heart after a heart attack.”
But that is not all. The problem is that millions of stem cells or their differentiated derivatives are required to grow and transplant heart cells after a heart attack. Usually, for this, cell multiplication is included under conditions of accelerated growth, which leads to cell stress – in some cases, the grown cells have damaged DNA.
In response to damage, intracellular repair (repair) mechanisms are usually activated. However, the rapid spread and insufficient time allotted for repair processes can lead to the accumulation of damaged DNA. Such damaged cells are not suitable for transplantation and must be removed before being transplanted to the patient. In other words, some sort of screening mechanism is needed at the growing stage.
Scientists have found that activation of the p53 transcription factor by a small MDM2 Nutlin-3a molecule in induced pluripotent stem cells is capable of this screening. This process selectively induces apoptosis (cell death) in cells with damaged DNA, while sparing cells without DNA damage.
Researchers say that they can grow harmless pluripotent stem cells outside the body in this way, and then precisely add them near the cell death zone. The approach has already been tested on mice that have had a heart attack; he has proven to improve the ability of the left ventricle to pump blood.
“This approach for selecting cells with intact DNA can be applied to any type of stem cell,” said Ramaswamy Kannappan, a researcher at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “The method can be used in the treatment of diseases such as injuries to the brain and spinal cord, as well as diabetes.”
This article is written and prepared by our foreign editors writing for OBSERVATORY NEWS from different countries around the world – material edited and published by OBSERVATORY staff in our newsroom.
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