Rejuvenating the heart through skin cell reprogramming

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Researchers at the Center for iPS Research and Applications (CiRA), Kyoto University have identified an optimum maturation stage at which newly reprogrammed heart cells can be transplanted and successfully engrafted into damaged hearts of mice.

The result of a heart attack or other trauma results in the damage and death of many heart cells that can’t be repaired. Given the limited availability of hearts available for transplants, cell therapies that involve transplanting over a billion heart cells to a patient’s damaged heart still requires fine tuning as many of the transplanted cells fail to engraft properly. The reason for this could be attributed to the fact that the population of heart cells exists as a mixture of cells at different stages of maturation. The work, published in Scientific Reports investigates the optimal maturation stage ideal for heart cells to transplant and engraft properly.

Skin cells were reprogrammed into heart cells via induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). The differentiated heart cells were able to go through all stages of development. “Heart cells at different stages could behave very differently,” highlighted Dr. Shunsuke Funakoshi, first author of the study. Heart cells at varying stages of maturation were transplanted into damaged hearts of living mice. Heart cells that were differentiated for 20 days were much better engrafted which suggests that there is in fact an optimal maturation stage for cell therapies. Although the optimal stage was identified for mice from this study, Funakoshi stressed that the data from this study does not reflect the maturation periods for human heart cells. Further study is advised with “bigger animals”.

As over a billion cells are needed for human heart cell therapies, identifying the best cells for the therapy should not only improve patient outcome, but also reduce the number of cells required, further reducing both the time of the preparation and invasiveness of the procedure.

Source: Using skin to save the heart; Press Release
Funakoshi S, Miki K, Takaki T, et al. Enhanced engraftment, proliferation, and therapeutic potential in heart using optimized human iPSC-derived cardiomyocytes. Scientific Reports, 2016; 6: 19111 DOI