Two researchers at the Bernard O'Brien Institute of Microsurgery in Australia have discovered a method of getting stem cells from fatty tissue and converting them to living heart muscle cells. The stem cells from the fat tissue actually begin beating in rhythm to the heart cells when they are placed together.
Dr. Rodney Dilley, a senior researcher at the Institute and visiting Korean researcher Yu Suk Choi recently demonstrated how they conducted their research.
After the scientists gather human fat tissue from liposuction surgery, the separated the stem cells from the fat and treated them with a "mixture of agents" to encourage them to act like heart cells. Then, the research pair introduced the human stem cells to rat heart cells and they observed as the human stem cells began to beat along with the rat heart cells.
Though Dr. Dilley and Dr. Choi are unsure what exactly triggers the human stem cells to start beating, they will continue their investigation, next injecting the human fat stem cells directly into the damaged heart of a laboratory rat. If the human stem cells repair the heart, Dilley and Choi will continue their research with other larger animal species before attempting trials with humans.
If heart cell regeneration becomes possible with one's own stem cells, it would be a major breakthrough in treatment of heart disease. replacing artificial tissue regeneration, which is not always accepted by the body. Also, if fat cells could be used from the patient's own body, that would eliminate having to wait for donor stem cells to arrive before treatment could be administered.
For an interesting look at the cells in action, see the story of the study here.
The Age, Bernard O'Brien Institute of Microsurgery via R&D News. Slide from eMedicineHealth.
Keeping you posted!