|Stem Cells with a Heart
|Prof. Lior Gepstein
A Technion study published in Nature in January 2011 shows the ability of human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs ) to recreate - in a Petri dish - a cardiac disorder known as long QT syndrome, enabling researchers to model the abnormal cardiac function and to identify potential new therapeutic agents.
Led by Prof. Lior Gepstein of the Rappaport Faculty of Medicine, the research team obtained skin cells from a patient known to have long QT syndrome - a disease which affects the heartís ability to recharge itself after each heartbeat, causing fainting, seizures and even leading to sudden death. The Technion scientists turned the skin cells into iPSCs and then coaxed these all-purpose stem cells to become cardiac cells.
These newly created beating heart cells showed abnormal electrical activity, mimicking that of the patientís actual heart, and enabling the scientists to test the efficacy of different drugs on the cells.
While some patients acquire the syndrome after taking certain medications, Gepsteinís patient was a 28-year-old woman with an inherited form of the disorder - type-2 LQTS - caused by a single genetic mutation. In this case, the individual cardiac cells derived from iPSCs demonstrated the same long recharging period and arrhythmia common in the hearts of long QT syndrome patients.
Heart cells derived from the human induced
The study represents a new paradigm to help scientists learn more about how a disease like long QT syndrome works at the cellular level. Gepstein said that the disease ďcould be demonstrated and studied at the single-cell or multicellular level, but it doesnít require an entire organ, which of course we cannot create.Ē
pluripotent stem cells
But it also offers a glimpse at the future of personalized medicine, where a patientís own cells can be used to determine which treatments might work best - or should be avoided - for a particular condition. Furthermore, since heart biopsies, for example, are hard to obtain, this methodology using iPSCs also offers a novel way to study diseased cells that cannot easily be removed from the body.Researchers around the world are also using iPSCs to study other heart diseases and nervous system disorders such as Parkinsonís disease, Gepstein said.
The research team at the Sohnis and Forman Families Center of Excellence for Stem Cell and Tissue Regeneration Research included Ilanit Itzhaki, Leonid Meizels, Irit Huber, and colleagues.