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Embryonic Heart Cells Protect Mice from Arrhythmias

Cells work by enhancing electrical coupling within engrafted infarct

THURSDAY, Dec. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Transplanting embryonic cardiomyocytes into mice who have had a heart attack protects them against ventricular arrhythmias by enhancing intercellular electrical coupling within the engrafted infarct, according to a report in the Dec. 6 issue of Nature.

Wilhelm Roell, M.D., from the University of Bonn in Germany, and colleagues grafted mouse embryonic cardiomyocytes into mice with left ventricular infarcts.

The researchers found that the embryonic cardiomyocytes, but not skeletal muscle cells, bone marrow cells or cardiac myofibroblasts, protected against the induction of ventricular tachycardia. This protection was critically dependent on the gap-junction protein connexin 43, since skeletal muscle cells engineered to express the protein were also able to protect mice against ventricular arrhythmias to a similar extent as embryonic cardiomyocytes.

"Taken together, our results show that cardiomyocyte transplantation has the potential to impart electrical stability to the injured heart, thereby markedly reducing the major factor leading to sudden death," Roell and colleagues conclude.

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