Heart stem cells found in babies
Researchers in San Diego have found stem cells in infants that become heart muscle cells, pointing the way to possible new treatments for heart problems.
Scientists originally believed the rare cells disappeared after birth. They discovered, however, a small number of the cardiac progenitor cells in the atrium of the hearts of newborn rats, mice and humans. The human cells were found in five infants undergoing surgery for congenital heart defects.
The cells will not grow into a whole new heart but can spontaneously become cells from specific parts of the heart by simple co-exposure to other heart cells, which could augment existing surgical procedures. They might even serve as biological pacemakers for infants born with heart block.
“Furthermore, the cardiac muscle cells formed were totally mature and had the complete array of function that one would expect in completely differentiated heart tissue,” said the study’s co-first author Jason Lam.
The research was published in the February 10, 2005 issue of the journal Nature.
© Copyright 2005 by United Press International