Scientists Develop Mature Human Heart-like Muscles from Stem Cells

Published Date : Apr 06, 2018

With the use of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC), researchers can now form a model of adult human-like cardiac muscles by introducing to the stem cells mechanical and electric stimulations at an early stage. As the resultant muscle resembles the adult human heart muscles, it can prove to be a better model for testing drugs and toxins as compared to the presently used heart models made from tissue engineering.

Stem cells are capable of transforming into several other types of cells. Human cells lose the flexibility after they mature, which is why they cannot turn into other cells, for example, lung cells do not become heart cells. Induced pluripotent stem cells are the cells that have been derived from adults and have been induced or manipulated into the stem cells state. These blank slate cells can be guided into different types of cells with the use of physical and chemical stimulus.

To reach the goal, the researchers made the cultured heart muscles undergo transition from the fetal state to the prenatal state with an accelerated development. This was done by increasing the frequency of electrically provided contractions to iPS-CMs little by little each day. The tissues responded to the experiment and had gene expression like adult hear muscles, displayed a highly organized ultrastructure, and several functional features that are often seen in adult heart muscles, only after undergoing this experiment for four weeks.

For several years now, scientists have been able to artificially develop cardiac tissues with the help of induced pluripotent stem derived cardiomyocytes (iPS-CMs). However, for engineering tissues that can successfully perform the intricate functions of adult human heart cells is not an easy task and has not been achieved in the lab yet. Thus this research can prove to be transformative for several research activities in the biomedical industry.