Heart cells are one of the most sought-after cells in regenerative medicine because researchers anticipate that they may help to repair injured hearts by replacing lost tissue.
Now, researchers have found a direct means for converting a non-heart cell type into a heart cell via RNA transfer.
Working on the idea that the signature of a cell is defined by molecules called messenger RNAs (mRNAs), which contain the chemical blueprint for how to make a protein, the investigators changed two different cell types, an astrocyte (a star-shaped brain cell) and a fibroblast (a skin cell), into a heart cell, using mRNAs.
"What's new about this approach for heart-cell generation is that we directly converted one cell type to another using RNA, without an intermediate step," said James Eberwine, PhD, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. The Perelman researchers put an excess of heart cell mRNAs into either astrocytes or fibroblasts using lipid-mediated transfection, and allowed the host cell does the rest.