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Transplanted Skeletal Muscle Mimics Heart Muscle; Helps Failing Heart Pump, Duke,,Researchers Say

e. For example, another new experimental procedure, called cardiomyoplasty, uses skeletal muscles taken from a patient's back or abdomen to wrap around an ailing heart. The muscle is stimulated by a device similar to a pacemaker to augment weak heart muscle. But, Taylor said, the skeletal muscle isn't really hooked up to the heart. It acts more like a mechanical assist device.

"Our idea is similar to earlier experiments by researchers at other universities who are trying to implant fetal muscle cells into hearts to stimulate growth," Taylor said. But, she added, that idea is not practical because there is no ready supply of fetal tissue and it could cause an immune reaction. The advantage of using muscle cells from each patient is that it's their own tissue, which won't be rejected by the immune system.

The Duke research team is testing the idea using rabbits, which have hearts very similar to a human heart. "Unlike some animals, rabbits have heart attacks just like people," Taylor said.

The researchers injected the damaged hearts of 12 rabbits with 10 million muscle cells. In seven of the 12, the cells took up residence and began stretching and contracting. In addition, when the researchers examined the hearts three to six weeks later, the skeletal muscle cells had organized themselves in a pattern resembling heart muscle cells, suggesting that the skeletal muscle had somehow "learned" how to act like heart muscle.

"We were very encouraged to see that the engrafted cells appear to adapt to their local environment and mimic heart muscle," Taylor said. "We had been concerned that the skeletal muscle could induce an arrhythmia if it did not respond to the electrical signals of the heart, but that doesn't appear to be happening."

In the remaining five rabbits, immune system inflammatory cells appear to have destroyed the injected muscle cells. Taylor said this is a natural response. The body sends immune system cel
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Contact: Karyn Hede George
George016@mc.duke.edu
919-684-4148
Duke University Medical Center
4-Aug-1998


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