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Transplanted stem cells show promise for mending broken hearts

Working with heart attack-stricken mice, a team of University of Wisconsin-Madison scientists has shown that embryonic stem cells may one day live up to their clinical promise.

In a paper to be published in the January 2006 issue of the Journal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology, a team led by UW-Madison stem cell researcher and heart specialist Timothy J. Kamp reports that all-purpose embryonic stem cells, transplanted into mouse hearts damaged by experimentally induced heart attacks, shift gears and morph into functional forms of the major types of cells that compose the healthy heart.

The study's results are important because they demonstrate that blank-slate embryonic stem cells can be introduced to damaged heart tissue, develop into heart muscle and into cells that form the heart's blood vessels. If perfected, such therapy could provide a practical, less-invasive alternative to current therapies such as surgery, improve the quality of life for many patients and reduce the number of deaths attributed to heart disease, now estimated at about 700,000 deaths per year in the United States.

"Typically, when that heart muscle dies (as the result of heart attack), it is gone for good," says Kamp, a professor of medicine and physiology in the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health.

In their experiments, when stem cells were introduced directly to tissue damaged by a heart attack, three critical types of cells formed: cardiomyocytes or heart muscle; vascular smooth muscle, the muscle that forms the bulk of the walls of blood vessels; and endothelial cells, the flat cells that line the interior surfaces of blood vessels in the heart and throughout the body's circulatory system.

"There are multiple components," Kamp explains. "But (in these experiments) we see the three most important types of cells forming. It didn't completely repair the heart, but it was encouraging."

Kamp emphasized that although results of the new study s
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Contact: Timothy J. Kamp
tjk@medicine.wisc.edu
608-263-4856
University of Wisconsin-Madison
20-Dec-2005


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