Premature cells that support early heart development but vanish soon after birth are developed by a team of researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). These findings are published in Nature Communications.
This development will be able to generate functioning heart tissue that could be transplanted, similar to donor organs, for the treatment of heart failure.
The cells, called pre-epicardial cells, form the epicardium, a membrane that covers the outer surface of the heart.This membrane generates a variety of cells needed to support heart development before birth.
Researchers developed a recipe to generate pre-epicardial cells from human induced pluripotent stem cells, which are embryo-like cells derived from reprogrammed mature cells such as a patient𠏋 skin cells.
When placed in contact with heart muscle cells, the pre-epicardial cells are further developed to epicardial cells and took on their important role of supporting embryonic heart formation--for example, by enhancing the maturation of nearby cardiomyocytes.
Using this scientists were able to retrace early stages of heart development and generate millions of cardiomyocytes from a single blood draw, but forming the structure of the heart is very complex.
Producing cells that play key roles in forming the structure of the heart is necessary for regenerative medicine strategies for heart disease.
While there are many more steps still required to complete the puzzle of heart development, this work adds an important piece that will hopefully help us and others in recapitulating cardiac development to generate novel therapies for heart failure.
Such cell- or tissue-based therapies will restore or replace lost organ function in patients suffering from chronic organ failure such as heart failure, end stage lung disease, and kidney disease.