(RxWiki News) Heart stem cells are in demand because damaged hearts have difficulty repairing themselves. Now researchers have identified a pool of heart stem cells capable of expanding and forming several cell types, including bone.
The discovered cells also could form muscle, brain and heart cells. The finding could prompt regenerative therapies designed to repair heart tissue. The heart has trouble repairing on its own because of a hostile environment and enormous cell loss following a heart attack.
"Seek medical attention immediately after a heart attack."
Richard Harvey of the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute in Australia said that researchers hope to determine how to preserve the stem cells and to stop their loss.
The research is key because stem cells harvested from human hearts during surgery are showing promise for reversing damage caused by a heart attack. Harvey said that the biology behind that potential needs to be understood if scientists and doctors are serious about organ regeneration.
The recently discovered cardiac stem cells can be located in both developing and adult hearts near blood vessels. While the cells are capable of forming into various types of cells, they appear biased toward heart tissue. Harvey explained that is likely because they have been dedicated to the heart for a long time.
He suggests their flexibility was caused by a need to remain responsive to the environment and different types of injuries.
Harvey favors the idea of using regenerative therapy to enhance the natural ability of the heart and other organs to repair themselves. He said additional research is needed to determine the role of stem cells in the repair process.
His team currently is researching factors that would prompt the cardiac cells to leave their dormant state in response to injury.
In an accompanying editorial, Igor Slukvin of the University of Wisconsin emphasized that the development of the biology of the heart is instrumental to novel cell therapies. He said it would be critical to identify the type and origin of cells capable of reconstituting the heart.
The research was published in the Dec. 2 edition of journal Cell Stem Cell.