Heart Cells Grown From Skin Cells?

Scientists Reprogram Mouse Skin Cells Into Embryonic-Like Stem Cells and Then Into Heart Cells

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on April 30, 2008
From the WebMD Archives

April 30, 2008 -- New research shows that it may be possible to reprogram skin cells to act like embryonic stem cells, and then turn those stem cells into heart cells.

Scientists at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) have done that with mouse cells.

"I'm hoping that these scientific findings are the first step towards one day developing new therapies that I can offer my patients," Robb MacLellan, MD, UCLA associate professor of cardiology and physiology, says in a news release.

First, MacLellan's team reprogrammed mouse skin cells to become induced pluripotent cells, or iPS cells, which act like embryonic stem cells.

Next, the researchers coaxed the iPS cells to become immature heart cells. And then they developed those immature heart cells into several types of heart and blood cells. Details of their work appear in the May 1 online edition of Stem Cells.

What about people? In 2007, scientists in the U.S. and Japan reported successfully reprogramming human skin cells to become iPS cells.

The next step is to see if human iPS cells can develop into immature heart cells, and then into cardiovascular and blood cells for use in patients. "I believe iPS cells address many of the shortcomings of human embryonic stem cells and are the future of regenerative medicine," says MacLellan.