MONDAY, July 20, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers have genetically engineered cells that help form scar tissue after a heart attack into a type of cell that does just the opposite -- repairs damage to the heart muscle, a new study in mice shows.
The research team from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., reprogrammed fibroblasts -- cells that play a role in scarring -- into becoming induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, which are stem cells that have been converted from adult cells.
The iPS cells were then transplanted into damaged mouse hearts, where they engrafted after two weeks. After four weeks, the mice hearts had improved structure and function, according to the study authors.
The iPS cells improved heart muscle performance, halted progression of structural damage to the already damaged heart and regenerated tissue at the site of damage, the researchers said.
"This study establishes the real potential for using iPS cells in cardiac treatment," study author Dr. Timothy Nelson said in a Mayo Clinic news release. "Bioengineered fibroblasts acquired the capacity to repair and regenerate infarcted hearts."
This study, which is reported online in the journal Circulation, was the first time iPS cells were used to repair heart tissue. Previous studies have investigated using iPS cells to treat Parkinson's disease, sickle cell anemia and hemophilia A.
Because iPS cells are derived from the patient, there is no risk of rejection or need for anti-rejection drugs, the researchers noted.
The hope is to one day be able to use iPS cells to repair injuries, helping to alleviate the demand for organ transplantation.
"This iPS innovation lays the groundwork for translational applications," senior study author Dr. Andre Terzic, Mayo Clinic physician-scientist, said in the same news release.
The American Heart Association has more on heart attacks.