Israeli teams grows heart cells and insulin producing cells from human embryonic stem cells

Studies offer new hope for curing diabetes and heart disease

HAIFA, Israel and NEW YORK, N.Y., - Since the isolation of human embryonic stem cells three years ago, scientists have been excited about the prospect of using these cells to produce all the different types of tissues in our body, such as heart tissue to repair damaged hearts.

Now researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have for the first time succeeded in growing the precursors of heart cells from human embryonic stems cells. This puts the researchers considerably closer to clinical application in humans. The research, conducted by Dr. Lior Gepstein of the Faculty of Medicine at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and Dr. Joseph Itskovitz-Eldor of the Faculty of Medicine and Rambam Medical Center, is published in the August Journal of Clinical Investigation.

In a second study, another team of researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology demonstrated that human embryonic stem cells can produce insulin, a result that could signal an important step toward a cure for type 1 diabetes. Their research, led by Dr. Karl Skorecki of the Faculty of Medicine at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, is published in the August Diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes is a disease that generally results from the autoimmune destruction of pancreatic islet cells, which produce the insulin that "unlocks" the cells of the body allowing glucose to enter and fuel them. The only way to cure the disease is by pancreas transplantation. However, due to the shortage of organ donations and other factors, there remains a greatly insufficient supply of organs.

The study "offers the promise that stem cells might provide a rich source of insulin-producing cells and put us closer to a cure for this serious disease," said Dr. Christopher D. Saudek, president of the American Diabetes Association.

While other researchers recently reported on the use

Contact: Adar Novak
American Society for Technion - Israel Institute of Technology

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