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Medicine Biotech Science

Stem Cells From Fat Create Beating Heart Cells 198

Amenacier writes "Melbourne scientists recently discovered that stem cells isolated from human fat could be made to turn into beating heart muscle cells when cultured with rat heart cells. This discovery may lead to the use of fat stem cells in repairing cardiac damage, or fixing such cardiac problems as holes in the heart. It is proposed that culturing the stem cells with rat heart cells allows them to differentiate into heart muscle through signals from the rat cells. In the future it may be possible to inject/transplant the stem cells into the damaged area and have them naturally differentiate into the type of cell required, with only the natural stimuli provided by surrounding cells, without any danger of rejection by the body. Quoting: 'The next step is to implant the human heart cells onto the damaged heart of a laboratory rat to see whether they repair the heart. Then they would be trialled in higher species such as sheep and pigs before human applications could be considered. Clinical application could be five years away ...'" The Age has a multimedia treatment (Flash) of the discovery.
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Stem Cells From Fat Create Beating Heart Cells

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  • by rubies ( 962985 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @01:07AM (#25464639)

    Nah. We've already got those.

    • by Rod Beauvex ( 832040 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @01:17AM (#25464701)
      I ask that all rat lovers mod parent down for such an insult to rats everywhere.
      • by gnick ( 1211984 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @01:52AM (#25464869) Homepage

        I ask that all rat lovers mod parent down for such an insult to rats everywhere.

        Pretty much off-topic, so I've foregone my karmic bonus. Mods, please be gentle.

        Rats rock. Best pets I've had. They're clean, loyal, friendly, and low upkeep. Terrific. They've even potty-trainable with less that 1-month of effort - I used to let mine run loose and kept ramps up so that they could return to their cages to crap.
        On-topic... If we can generate stem-cells applicable to human research trans-specially, who other than PETA would continue to object?

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          On-topic... If we can generate stem-cells applicable to human research trans-specially, who other than PETA would continue to object?

          People afraid of cloning

        • by Psiren ( 6145 )

          What the hell is a "loyal" rat? Come to that, why the hell do I want to know?!

          • by gnick ( 1211984 )

            A "loyal" rat is one that will not bite even if you coat your finger with peanut-butter, prefers your company to people that he doesn't know, and will jump in front of a ninja's throwing star to save you should the occasion arise.

        • by pz ( 113803 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @08:16AM (#25466513) Journal

          On-topic... If we can generate stem-cells applicable to human research trans-specially, who other than PETA would continue to object?

          The goal of the field is to use stem cells derived from the person being treated. The idea is it would run something like this: take a few vials of blood or a bit of adipose tissue (subcutaneous fat), send them to the lab to be turned into stem cells or precursor heart / kidney / pancreas / brain cells, inject into or near the appropriate tissue (maybe just give as a transfusion), and things will Just Work.

          The only -- ONLY -- reason people are in an uproar about this sort of work is because fetal stem cells are being used by many researchers in the field, and obtaining fetal tissue is politically charged. (There's good scientific reasons to use fetal stem cells that have to do with host rejection.) Once we can take adult cells and turn them back into pluripotent stem cells (fixing the telomeres along the way, even), or barring that can get the equivalent naive stem cells from placenta or umbilical cord tissue, we won't require fetal tissue any more and the whole issue will fade quietly as it should.

          Unfortunately, I'm on vacation, so don't have my references handy, but there are lots and lots and lots of people working on creating stem cells from adults, and there has been remarkable progress.

          So, this is a long-winded way of saying that I doubt anyone in research team from the article is considering the application for their work to be to use xenograft stem cells (from a different species), but to instead use human fat cells to create new heart tissue.

          • I was under the impression that there already were a couple of treatments in use that used Adult Stem Cells. The advantage of Embryonic Stem Cells is that they are more changeable then the adult Stem Cells.
            • by dbrutus ( 71639 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @10:15AM (#25467897) Homepage

              There are a bit over 70 treatments using adult or cord blood stem cells (list here [stemcellresearch.org]) with embryonic cells being used in zero treatments. The plasticity of embryonic stem cells is a disadvantage it seems due to the tendency towards tumor formation.

              • The plasticity of embryonic stem cells is a disadvantage it seems due to the tendency towards tumor formation.

                Tissue rejection is a bigger issue from what I've heard. In plenty of cases, it's possible to take embryonic stem cells and turn them into mature cells which will be less likely to make tumors, but it would still be foreign tissue you would reject.

                Of course, if you are not a woman who has given birth and saved your cord blood, that's not an option, and it doesn't appear that adult stem cells can fill all our stem cell needs, so we need IPS cells or embryonic stem cells. And also we've already learned a l

                • by dbrutus ( 71639 )

                  We don't actually know that adult stem cells cannot fit all our needs. That's why there's ongoing research, it's not a mature field. The difference between the adult and the embryonic cells is that we know how to make the adult cells work in real treatments, we just need to extend what we know. With embryonic, we hope to get past the rejection and tumor and other problems and we've got no actual record of success to support that hope.

                  • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                    by philspear ( 1142299 )

                    I would be a terrible scientist if I didn't preface this with the disclamer: I could be wrong in every word, current theories may be wrong and I could also not be current. Having said that...

                    The evidence suggests that adult stem cells are not pluripotent and are fate restricted. An adult stem cell population that could give rise to any cell type would be a big liability to the organism, as that would be a population of cells much closer to producing tumors than a fate-restricted stem cell.

                    It is unlikely t

                    • by dbrutus ( 71639 )

                      Google does provide [sciencedaily.com] if you know how to ask. We've known that bone marrow can be induced to make CNS cells since at least 2002. You are, indeed, out of date.

                      This is not my field either but I cared enough to spend 90 seconds doing the search before I hit reply. You might ask why didn't you? In case you're wondering, the string I used was:
                      adult stem cells central nervous system

                      Finding this sort of thing isn't brain surgery. Perhaps pro-life people who you think are being unreasonable are merely better informed

                    • Perhaps pro-life people who you think are being unreasonable are merely better informed?

                      I'm going to call foul here. I never said anything about the pro-life movement, which I happen to agree with to an extent, certainly I didn't call them unreasonable, nor do I think they are. Don't know why you're getting so hostile. If I were to have a low opinion of pro-life people, you wouldn't exactly be helping it with your tone. This is a casual discussion.

                      I didn't do a google search, but I think I did a pubmed search with a similar string. Pubmed is an index of primary literature, the actual rese

        • by Hatta ( 162192 )

          I used to let mine run loose and kept ramps up so that they could return to their cages to crap.

          Don't they chew your cords?

  • its only fair (Score:5, Insightful)

    by circletimessquare ( 444983 ) <circletimessquareNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @01:16AM (#25464697) Homepage Journal

    my fat cells are killing my heart cells

    might as well sacrifice a few of them to give back what they took

  • by gillbates ( 106458 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @01:17AM (#25464705) Homepage Journal

    That from the fat of the overweight American comes the cure for heart disease brought on by his poor diet!

    With two thirds of Americans overweight, this is promising news.

  • by retech ( 1228598 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @01:54AM (#25464881)
    So the plan was to get the entire world to bulk up [physorg.com] and then sell their fat back to them as a means to save them...

    the first rule of stem cell research is you don't talk about stem cell research.
    • The beauty of using adult stem cells is that they can be taken from and used on the same person without fear of rejection because they are already marked as "self" by the body...foetal stem cells may still cause problems because they have their own unique DNA.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by wdef ( 1050680 )
      The first rule about fat club is you don't talk about fat club.
  • Not realistic (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @02:17AM (#25464973)

    There's a lot of questions that have to be answered here - it's not as simple as they say it is. Adipose-derived stem cells are definitely nothing new - adult stem cells are widely studied and commonly used in bioengineering labs. The problem is that translating this into a clinically useful tool is far from reality, and there are a lot of fundamental issues that have to be resolved before something useful can be made:

    1. You have to isolate the stem cells from fat properly, which is not a simple task especially when you think about doing this en masse for many patients.
    2. Then you have to transform the cells, which is costly and takes time and never works completely.
    3. After you get the cells beating, they have to beat in rhythm with the electrical pulse from the heart.
    4. Then you have to ensure that they stay that way and don't require any additional growth factors or other biomolecules to keep their differentiation.
    5. You also need to anticipate possible immune responses, i.e. a host could reject its own cells.
    6. Then you have to consider the cost of growing these cells ex vivo and you probably have to do this in advance, especially if you want to use autologous cells (the patient's own cells), since it will take a lot of time and patience to grow the cell number to something substantial that can be injected.

    In Australia things might happen faster, but for the US, getting this particular system running is full of regulatory issues and problems that aren't going to be easily addressed - 5 years is frankly impossible. I'd say 10 years, and that's AFTER they get all of the animal studies up and running. Ah, and it will cost tens of millions of dollars, if not hundreds of millions.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by wdef ( 1050680 )
      To respond to your issues: 1. Isolate a few, then culture the rest? 2. Tranformation appears here to be quite simple and spontaneous. The rat cells are doing the work. 3. Rhythm can be synchronized with an electric current. 4. Additional maintenance - speculation until we know more. 5. Wondering how a host rejects its own cells - unless an autoimmune disease has been triggered? They all have the same HLA complex, or am I out of date? 6. Time to culture cells - so what? Heart failure is a slow and c
    • Yes, yes. It wasn't realistic that we'd fly in airplanes either. It wasn't realistic that we'd be able to transplant organs. It wasn't realistic that we'd put men on the Moon.

      Not one of the issues you list is insurmountable. You could say 'not ready' but 'not realistic' is just plain inaccurate.

  • Department (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mrbobjoe ( 830606 )

    from the for-the-love-of-god-montressor dept.

    Eh? Was there a beating heart in The Cask of Amontillado? Maybe "the beating of his hideous heart" from The Tell-Tale Heart would have been more appropriate?

  • by maroberts ( 15852 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @04:17AM (#25465465) Homepage Journal
    Doctor Who [bbc.co.uk]
  • by wdef ( 1050680 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @05:17AM (#25465703)
    Clearly a humongous discovery. Should these cells be made to repair damaged heart muscle, it will revolutionize medicine. And without all the tedious hoo-hah about embryonic stem cells. Cardiac cells, like neurons, cannot be replaced by the body when damaged. This in fact is why many people die from heart failure years after surviving heart attacks. Heart attacks cut off the oxygen supply to cardiac cells, which die and can only be replaced by non-functional scar tissue, which is like the body's spakfiller. You lose enough cells, the heart cannot pump properly.
    • And if they can grow new neurons it will be all for the better. If the heart and brain can be kept in good working order into old age, other tissues should be in better shape too.
  • by Monkey-some ( 1178115 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @06:20AM (#25465953)
    I did saw "stem cells extracted from human farts..." had to re-read it a second time wondering where the science could ever stop
  • by kiick ( 102190 )

    Liposuction + heart fix
    Come out thinner and heart-healthy, all in one swell foop (without all that tedious dieting and exercise).
    Someone is going to make a fortune.

  • Maybe I haven't been properly keeping up with the state of the art in tissue engineering lately. Actually, I'm sure I haven't.

    It seems to me though, that this is a massive discovery and a huge step forward in technology. So why is the only publication that they list a multimedia presentation on, The Age [theage.com.au]? Shouldn't Science and Nature be all over this? At least it should be in the Journal of Tissue Engineering [liebertonline.com].

To do two things at once is to do neither. -- Publilius Syrus