Skin cells used to develop heart defect 'treatment' in first-of-its-kind

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London, Feb 10 (ANI): Using skin cells from young patients with a severe genetic heart defect, scientists have created beating heart cells that carry the same genetic mutation.

The newly created human heart cells - cardiomyocytes - allowed Stanford University School of Medicine researchers for the first time to examine and characterize the disorder at the cellular level.

The investigators also report their identification of a promising drug to reverse the heart malfunction - for which there are currently no decent treatments - after using these newly created heart cells to check the effects of a plethora of compounds.

The new approach involved converting skin cells to heart cells in a dish by reprogramming them to an embryonic-stem-cell-like state, so that the cells are capable of "differentiating" into a multitude of cell types.

The scientists then chemically coaxed these induced pluripotent stem cells to become heart cells.

The iPS-cell approach represents a big advance because no good alternative methods for studying human heart malfunction at the cellular level now exist.

"This may be the first time this noninvasive 'disease-in-a-dish' technique has been used successfully to screen for drugs in heart disorders," said Ricardo Dolmetsch, associate professor of neurobiology and senior author of the study. The study's first author is Masayuki Yazawa, a postdoctoral researcher in Dolmetsch's lab.

The study has been published online Feb. 9 in Nature. (ANI)

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