New research at The University of Nottingham is paving the way for techniques that use stem cells to repair the damage caused by heart attacks.
The research, funded with a grant of 95,000 the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), is looking at the process that turns a stem cell into a cardiomyocyte the beating cell that makes up the heart.
The Nottingham researchers are developing a new system to monitor cardiomyocytes in real time as they differentiate from stem cells into beating heart cells. The system uses electrophysiology to record the electrical properties in a cell and will be the first time it has been used to study cardiomyocyte cells in the UK.
The researchers hope that their research could provide more detailed information on the electrical activity of stem cell derived cardiomyocytes. In the longer term, this could facilitate their use in regenerating the damaged hearts of heart attack victims.
Dr Chris Denning, of the Universitys Wolfson Centre for Stem Cells, Tissue Engineering & Modelling, said: Human embryonic stem cells promise unrivalled opportunities. However, they are difficult, time-consuming and expensive to grow in the lab.
"Our understanding of how to convert them into cardiomyocytes is poor. At the moment we only know how to produce a few million cardiomyocytes, but to treat just one heart attack patient, we may need one billion that all function in the correct way."
To help overcome the many challenges that stem cells bring, Dr Denning and co-investigator Professor Stephen Hill plan to engineer a novel system for real-time analysis of cardiomyocytes during early development so their properties are better understood.
The team has already demonstrated that sufficient numbers of stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes can be produced for detailed analysis and they plan to use new 'electrophysiology' systems to record changes in the cells when culture
Contact: Dr Chris Denning
University of Nottingham