Scar Tissue Turned Into Heart Muscle Without Using Stem Cells
Scientists at Duke University Medical Center have shown the ability to turn scar tissue that forms after a heart attack into heart muscle cells using a new process that eliminates the need for stem cell transplant.
"If you can do this in the heart, you can do it in the brain, the kidneys, and other tissues. This is a whole new way of regenerating tissue."
To initiate the regeneration, Dzau's team at Duke used microRNAs, which are molecules that serve as master regulators controlling the activity of multiple genes. Tailored in a specific combination, the microRNAs were delivered into scar tissue cells called fibroblasts, which develop after a heart attack and impair the organ's ability to pump blood.
Once deployed, the microRNAs reprogrammed fibroblasts to become cells resembling the cardiomyocytes that make up heart muscle. The Duke team not only proved this concept in the laboratory, but also demonstrated that the cell conversion could occur inside the body of a mouse -- a major requirement for regenerative medicine to become a potential therapy.