Stem Cells May Cure Heart Defects
Well, October 2004 is VERY old news by now, but ther'es an interesting story from researchers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. It emerged today as news on the Hindustan Times, so I went to the Sloan site to find the original release
from October 8. (The Hindustan Times is way behind on some other stories too.) The researchers found that embryonic stem cells injected into “early embryos of mice whose hearts were genetically predisposed to develop a lethal defect, rescued the heart from developing the disorder by not only producing normal daughter cells that were incorporated into the defective embryonic heart but also by releasing biological factors into the nearby vicinity.”
The researchers described the embryonic stem cells as acting as “nurses,” helping to heal the sick cells; 50% of the mice who would normally have died in the womb survived. The researchers had previously identified a protein known as Id, which was involved in the normal growth of blood vessels. In this study, they found that the stem cells were dependent on the Id protein to do their work in healing the defective cells. They also identified two different molecules which the stem cells apparently used in signaling; one molecule had a short range action, so that the mice survived gestation but died a few days after birth, and another had a longer action and fully corrected the flaw in genetic expressions.
Obviously more research has to happen before we can see if this would be applicable to humans, but it’s promising.