Sunday, November 26, 2006

‘Master stem cell’ find sparks hope for regrown heart

Work towards stem cell treatments for coronary disease has jumped another step with the discovery of a “master” cell that appears to give rise to all the major parts of the heart. Scientists discovered the cells within developing heart tissue in mouse embryos. Tests showed they were capable of differentiating into contracting cardiac cells, smooth muscle, and the endothelial cells that line the walls of blood vessel.
These are the three principal cell types that make up the mammalian heart. In future, they could be used to regenerate ailing hearts, as well as aid drug discovery and provide new models of human disease, scientists believe.
“We think these are authentic cardiac stem cells responsible for forming the diverse cell types of the heart,” said study leader Kenneth Chien, director of the Cardiovascular Research Centre at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
Stem cells are immature cells with the ability to grow into different kinds of tissue. Those extracted from early stage embryos can potentially become any kind of cell. However, there are ethical objections to cannibalising human embryos for stem cells. Completely undifferentiated stem cells may also present a risk of cancer.
The more advanced stem cells found in the primitive cardiac mouse tissue are known as MIPCs. Cloned and grown in the laboratory, the scientists found they could be made to develop into the different heart cell types.
“These MIPCs may be excellent candidates for cardiac muscle regeneration studies, without the risk of tumour formation posed by embryonic stem cells or the limited effectiveness seen in studies using other cell types,” said Chien.
“It now appears that cardiac cells develop in the same way that blood cells do, with a master stem cell giving rise to the entire range of cells.” DAILY MAIL

Folic acid cuts attack risk, says research

London: Taking folic acid may reduce the risk of heart disease and strokes, according to a study published in the British Medical Journal on Friday. After analysing evidence from earlier studies, a team of British scientists have discovered that folic acid lowers levels of the amino acid homocysteine in the blood and reduces the odds of cardiovascular disease.
“The evidence is very persuasive that lowering homocysteine with folic acid will lower your risk of heart attack and stroke by about 10-20 percent,” said David Wald, of the Wolfson Institute for Preventive Medicine, Barts and the London, Queen Mary School of Medicine and Dentistry in London. Folic acid is a synthetic compound of folate, a B vitamin found in green leafy vegetables and liver.

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