A new and reliable way of producing heart cells in the laboratory has been identified In what may be a major boost for drug development. As a result, researchers will be able to mimic the effects of heart disease in a petri dish.
The new research shows how human heart cells can be consistently produced from embryonic stem cells, creating a potentially inexhaustible source for research and drug discovery.
"We linked a green fluorescent marker - originally from a jelly-fish - to a gene found in heart cells, causing them to glow," said Dr. David Elliott of Monash University's Immunology and Stem Cell Laboratories in Australia.
"This finding is significant because up until now the development of drugs to treat heart disease has been hampered by the lack of a dependable supply of heart cells for experimentation."
Professor Andrew Elefanty also of Monash University's Immunology and Stem Cell Laboratories said these markers could be used to pull heart cells from cultures without having to use genetic modification to make the desired cells visible.
"We are now starting to make significant steps in the search for stem cell based therapies for heart disease and our findings will drive further research and discovery in this field," Professor Elefanty added.
"This breakthrough is the result of more than ten years of work by the world-leading team at Monash and it illustrates the benefits of investing time and resources in stem cell research."
The team is using similar strategies to isolate insulin-producing cells for the treatment of diabetes, and blood cells for the treatment of leukaemia.
Adapted from the Monash University announcement.