Posted on Jul 13, 2012, 6 a.m.
Johns Hopkins University (USA) researchers have discovered that a single protein molecule may hold the key to turning cardiac stem cells into blood vessels or muscle tissue.
Human heart tissue does not heal well after a heart attack, instead forming debilitating scars. For reasons not completely understood, however, stem cells can assist in this repair process by turning into the cells that make up healthy heart tissue, including heart muscle and blood vessels. Previous studies have reported promising early results in the use of cardiac stem cells to curb the formation of unhealthy scar tissue after a heart attack. Now, Johns Hopkins University (Maryland, USA) researchers have discovered that a single protein molecule may hold the key to turning cardiac stem cells into blood vessels or muscle tissue, a finding that may lead to better ways to treat heart attack patients. The team modified a protein molecule called p190RhoGAP, thereby shaping the development of cardiac stem cells and encouraging them to become the building blocks for either blood vessels or heart muscle. The team members said that by altering levels of this protein, they were able to affect the future of these stem cells. The researchers are hopeful that future research will elucidate what exactly prompts the stem cells to convert into beneficial heart tissue, the answer to which may help to yield even better stem cell therapy results.
Kshitiz, Maimon E. Hubbi, Eun Hyun Ahn, John Downey, Junaid Afzal, Deok-Ho Kim, Sergio Rey, Connie Chang, Arnab Kundu, Gregg L. Semenza, Roselle M. Abraham, and Andre Levchenko. “Matrix Rigidity Controls Endothelial Differentiation and Morphogenesis of Cardiac Precursors.” Sci. Signal., 5 June 2012.