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    Stem Cells: A Revolution in Heart Disease Treatment?

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    Scientists in Japan have for the first time successfully used lab-grown stem cells to regenerate damaged hearts in monkeys.

    A study conducted by the team of researchers at Shinshu University has shown that cardiac muscle cells derived from skin cells of a single healthy monkey can at least partially repair the heart tissue of several other sick macaques and improve the ability of their hearts to contract.

    In the experiment, the scientists deliberately induced heart attacks in five macaques and then injected them with pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) made from the skin of a donor macaque who was a close genetic match. IPSCs are created by reverse engineering already specialized cells back into neutral, juvenile cells that are capable of turning into any other type of cell.

    The study, published in the journal Nature, showed that the iPSCs injected into the damaged hearts easily integrated with the hearts' cells, and the monkeys' immune systems tolerated them. Scientists monitored the animals for 12 weeks and discovered that stem cells replaced about 16 percent of the ruined heart tissue and the therapy allowed the organs to pump blood more efficiently.

    Researchers say they are not ready yet for trials on humans especially since some macaques showed to occasionally have trouble with irregular heartbeats. However, doctors believe that the findings indicate significant progress in healing a vitally important body organ damaged by heart attacks.

    "Currently, the only long term option for these patients is heart transplantation," heart researcher Sam Boateng told the Guardian, "But there are not enough donors to meet the current demand."

    Heart disease currently causes most of the deaths among American citizens. About 610,000 people in the country die of heart problems annually, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Authors of the study are very enthusiastic about the future of the newly tested treatment and hope it can soon be replicated in humans.

    Related:

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    Stem Cells Restore Hearing In Deaf Gerbils
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