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Cell scientists aim to rebuild hearts with reprogrammed tissue | Science

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Reprogramming heart tissue as a solution to heart failure issues:

The solution, emerging from the laboratories of several groups of scientists around the world, is to work out how to rebuild damaged hearts. Their weapons of choice are reprogrammed stem cells.

These researchers have rejected the more traditional path of cell therapy that you may have read about over the past decade of hope around stem cells – the idea that stem cells could be used to create batches of functioning tissue (heart or brain or whatever else) for transplant into the damaged part of the body. Instead, these scientists are trying to understand what the chemical and genetic switches are that turn something into a heart cell or muscle cell. Using that information, they hope to programme cells at will, and help the body make repairs.

It is an exciting time for a technology that no one thought possible a few years ago. In 2007, Shinya Yamanaka showed it was possible to turn adult skin cells into embryonic-like stem cells, called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), using just a few chemical factors. His technique radically advanced stem cell biology, sweeping aside years of blockages due to the ethical objections about using stem cells from embryos. He won the Nobel prize in physiology or medicine for his work in October. Researchers have taken this a step further – directly turning one mature cell type to another without going through a stem cell phase.

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