Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook


Forgot your password?
Medicine Science

Scientists Turn Skin Cells Into Beating Heart Muscle 121

An anonymous reader writes "By taking skin cells and turning them into stem cells, a technique that is already well known, researchers at Technion Israel Institute of Technology were able to generate beating heart cells — a medical first. 'We have shown that it's possible to take skin cells from an elderly patient with advanced heart failure and end up with his own beating cells in a laboratory dish that are healthy and young — the equivalent to the stage of his heart cells when he was just born,' Lior Gepstein, study author and professor of medicine said."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Scientists Turn Skin Cells Into Beating Heart Muscle

Comments Filter:
  • Hurry up already. I want to see easily replaceable hearts in MY life time...also ever other organ.
    IN fact, just full body clone replacements and transplant my head.

    • I'll be happy as long as modern medicine can keep me alive until we perfect mind uploading. Sometimes I get really sick of being a bag of meat.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by geekoid ( 135745 )

        Great, so there is a copy of you on the internet, then what? is the meat you going to go kill itself? Or you can all create one big conglomerate of personalities, which would then stagnate.

        The machine alone is too limiting.

        • by WillDraven ( 760005 ) on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @08:42PM (#40095499) Homepage

          Personally, I'm hoping that we get back on track with space travel, and then I can upload myself into an interstellar space probe. If nano-tech gets good enough, you could maybe even reconstitute a physical body if you find someplace interesting to land. With an electronic mind, you could alter your perception of time so the boring parts of floating between stars for years would only last a few minutes subjectively.

      • by jamesh ( 87723 )

        I'll be happy as long as modern medicine can keep me alive until we perfect mind uploading. Sometimes I get really sick of being a bag of meat.

        What if someone illegally downloads you? That could really hurt!

        • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 )

          What if someone illegally downloads you? That could really hurt!

          Yeah, every time Lucy Liu got illegally downloaded her head got shocked. Certainly looked painful.

      • by barv ( 1382797 )

        Hurry up already!

    • Amen. If they could use these cells to repair heart and vessels, I'd be second in line. And if this technique could be adapted to various eye parts, sign me up. Although my curiosity exceeds optimism I'd like to stick around a bit to see what happens.

      • In a heart attack, the heart muscle is deprived of oxygen and begins to die, and later becomes scar tissue, which leaves your heart with a reduced capacity to pump blood round your body.

        This could potentially be the chance to regenerate the Heart Muscle repairing the damage.

        The 50% rate after an initial heart attack is around 6 to 8 years (30% die from an initial heart attack) with a 25% chance of death in the first year. Quite depressing, although after year 1 its 3% compared to 1.5% for normal folk. Obvi

        • Good info, glad you're still here to bring it. The irregular symptoms are scary - how's one to know and make the call?

          I'm of mixed mind on stents, have seven now. Look like pick-up-sticks on X-ray. Much rather they could Rotor-Rooter or rebuild the pipes.

          • If you can do it check the pulse if that is abnormal it is a problem of some sort. I'd say play it safe, I guess it depends where you are as to what you do. In ireland it would probably cost you if you don't have private insurance or a medical card maybe 60 euro if your just checked out by a dr in the UK you can just go and be checked, in the usa well that might be a bigger problem.

            Stents are actually cheap for what they do, In 2009 I know a Dr wasted a stent and it was about 600 euro worth of stent he scra

    • by Spiked_Three ( 626260 ) on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @08:52PM (#40095577)
      My head is ugly. I want all new please.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by geekmux ( 1040042 )

      Hurry up already. I want to see easily replaceable hearts in MY life time...also ever other organ. IN fact, just full body clone replacements and transplant my head. .

      Sure, no problem! I'm certain we'll have all that technology and more within the next 30 - 50 years.

      Oh, I'm sorry, did you expect insurance to pay for ANY of that shit? Ha! Good luck. Might as well forget that retirement villa, you're gonna blow your 401k just trying to save your ticker, because even at that age, insurance will still be just as corrupt, and the medical industrial complex will continue its obscenely profitable model of treating instead of curing.

      • If he got what he wanted that wouldn't be a problem as he'd probably have another 50 some odd years. BTW, some people can pay for this shit without insurance. We don't all live paycheck to paycheck. Other countries besides the USA have decent prices also.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      If they could clone and replace "certain" organs with, oh, say, perhaps, LARGER versions, they could pay for all future research with the proceeds of this technique.

      Of course *I* don't need this, but I'm sure *others* might...
    • Wrong forum: write to your legislators that you want the NIH to receive more funding for research.
    • by joocemann ( 1273720 ) on Thursday May 24, 2012 @03:58AM (#40097623)

      This work hs been going on in an adacent lab for a while now.... very promising to hear results like that. []

    • I think there is one part in your brain that you don't want to replace. If you do, you'd effectively have committed suicide. (hint the most import part of the computer is ...).
    • This [] should be effective at accomplishing that.

  • That next week they'll announce the ability to regenerate an entire body from skin cells in 10 to 20 years, depending on funding of course.
    Lots and lots of funding -- preferably in the form of grants and endowments.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Speaking of endowments - penis enlargement anyone?

      • by Genda ( 560240 )

        This is going to be stupid... a generation of Alpha Males, rooted to the spot by their 400 lb, 6 foot appendages... Just because you have the money and science makes it possible doesn't mean you should do it!

  • by wbr1 ( 2538558 ) on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @08:19PM (#40095321)
    By taking skin cells and turning them into stem cells as the precursor to other cell lines that match the patients genetic makeup. are you increasing the chances of cancer?
    In my certainly uninformed view, skin cells are exposed to more radiation, thus more likely to have replication errors in their DNA, then adding the stress of modifying the cell to another form, I wonder what that does to it from a replication standpoint. It is nice to have fresh heat muscle I am sure, but to suddenly find yourself with melanoma in the heart would be a bummer.
    • by dgatwood ( 11270 ) on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @08:24PM (#40095361) Homepage Journal
      Unless you wear string bikinis, most folks have plenty of skin that never sees the sun. That said, I would expect a cheek swab (the mouth variety) to be a more common way to get those cells.
    • by Kurofuneparry ( 1360993 ) on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @08:34PM (#40095431)
      Biochemist medical student here. Propagating genetic errors is certainly a concern here, but the same concerns exist for genetic transfer in breeding generally. While skin cell are exposed to more radiation, the cells preferred for sampling here are typically from buccal (mouth) sources or are relatively deeper than the layers where most melanoma form.
      Honestly, the more prime concerns are with imperfect "stemming" or imperfect conversion to heart cells.
      Then again ... I'm and idiot ....
      • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @08:56PM (#40095623) Homepage

        At any rate, this is early on in the program. Nobody is making new hearts just yet. Cancer certainly is an issue but only one of many potential problems.

        The abstract [] in case anybody cares. The real article is behind the usual paywall. Grrr.

      • So the place of choice is where the sun doesn't shine?
        • So the place of choice is where the sun doesn't shine?

          Are you ignoring the advances in fiber optics?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        I'd agree about the imperfect stemming/heart cell conversion thing, but not with this:

        Propagating genetic errors is certainly a concern here, but the same concerns exist for genetic transfer in breeding generally.

        They're not exactly the same concerns. 'Normal' somatic cells, cells of the body which aren't stem cells, have a much higher capacity for surviving with DNA damage in their genomes than stem cells. This is because they have stopped growing & proliferating and hence stopped replicating their DNA, and a major method by which DNA damage is detected in the cell is by "testing whether DNA replication can occur". When DNA re

        • by Kurofuneparry ( 1360993 ) on Thursday May 24, 2012 @09:18AM (#40098917)
          While you are correct about many of the concerns from the stemming process, I was mainly talking about somatic mutations (like those caused by gamma radiation for example). The statement I made previously about these somatic mutations propagating no more in stemming than in breeding is still true. Also, the proto-oncogene concern is one that current research is already working toward limiting.
          My main concern with your statement is the argument that stem cells are MORE susceptible to random mutation than somatic cells. This is simply false. You argued that decreased activity is a protective attribute than for stem cells. In fact, most stem cells in the human body are LESS active than somatic cells as somatic cells do the work and (monopotent) stem cells like osteoprogenitor cells are mainly there to replenish and preserve genetic information. It's a biological axiom that sex cells (sperm and ova) have the highest importance in preserving genetic integrity and that's what we see experimentally: the sex cells have BETTER preservation of information, not worse.
          .... Then again ..... I'm an idiot ....
          • It's a biological axiom that sex cells

            It's also a marketing axiom too. *rimshot*

          • Yeah, I was talking about somatic mutation, such as that caused by any form of ionising radiation, reactive oxygen species, etc. etc. Also, I already said they were working towards limiting the oncogenes issue, but it wasn't yet in wide use, and finally, I wasn't saying stem cells are more susceptible to damage than somatic cells, I was saying somatic cells can take a higher load of DNA damage before detecting it. And yes, that does mean that they can survive better in the presence of more DNA damage (i.e.

            • Ah, pardon the misunderstanding
              • No worries, sir, you are a gentleman and a scholar, and I have massive respect for you for admitting error when the main problem here may well be me misinterpreting your mention of breeding as being about sex when you quite possibly meant somatic cell proliferation and I got the wrong end of the stick. I'd give you some references for my above claims, but sadly I have only heard them through my PhD supervisors, who I trust to be right (or at least supported by the opinion of someone someone they approve of)
    • No.

      If it were true, so what? You need a heart replacement or you will die, soon. If the procedure might give you cancer in 20 years, isn't that still a good trade?

  • immortality (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @08:22PM (#40095339)

    every advancement in medicine, and health is another step towards immortality.
    Only problem is, you can replace everything in the body except the brain.

    generations from now people will be living over 200 years of age, I can see new problems arising.
    Over population is a problem and the average lifespan is under 70.

    I see a future of hybrid human technology species

    • Re:immortality (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @08:35PM (#40095441)

      Over population is a problem ...

      Overpopulation is not a problem. That is a myth that has been perpetuated since the latter half of the 18th century. Do the math [].

      Only problem is, you can replace everything in the body except the brain.

      Perhaps even the brain... someday. There's nothing inherently mystical or supernatural about the brain that must make it impossible to transfer knowledge and identity from one to the other. We just don't know how... yet.

      I see a future of hybrid human technology species

      Without a doubt. I anticipate that it will start becoming a regular occurrence for people to augment their physical and even mental abilities with machines well before the end of this century.

      • On the subject of overpopulation, there's also this recent TED talk: []

      • Indeed, many humans currently have technology implanted in them. My dad has both an internal cardioverter-defibrillator (a pacemaker that also shocks his heart out of dangerous rhythms) and a ventricular assist device (a battery-powered heart pump). He would be long dead without the shocker, and he would probably be dead without the pump. This likely isn't what you had in mind, but it's something real.

      • by Exrio ( 2646817 )
        Mind conservation: THAT'S THE FUCKING PROBLEM. We need new minds - blank brains. Imagine having to live with old and rich people who has the MAFIAA mindset for indefitine time... You know they're the ones who have enough paper in their wallets to pay the bill for life extension treatments the day they're available, and while newer generations may seem fresh now I'm sure they will start presenting similar problems 60 years on. We really should solve the social problems of the world before we start talking
    • But the current average lifespan is not reflective of future medical breakthroughs. If we make replacement hearts, livers, and kidneys in the next 10 years from induced pluripotent stem cells, that will really boost that number up quite significantly. Possibly it will extend our lives until we learn how to replace neurons with circuitry. Maybe we'll live that long naturally anyway.

      The far future is wide open with possibilities, who is to say we can't achieve virtual immortality in our lifetimes? I
  • ... also known as "the love muscle." []

  • The Tin Woodman rejoices
  • That's really impressive, but is it medically useful in the instance they mention in the summary? If you have advanced heart failure, aren't you in danger of your heart just topping REAL SOON NOW? Can they use the stem cells to repair your heart before you die? It would be more credible to treat people who have had a heart attack and some damage but aren't yet in advanced heart failure.
    • by Genda ( 560240 )

      In fact, there is recent work described in this months Discover [] about using proteins produced by pythons (and no not the language) to renew and strengthen damages hearts.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Failure is the danger of a tear in the muscle or a valve. A tear is usually what cascades into death. We've gotten good at patching, but usually that requires heart tissue. From your heart. Whoops. Being able to patch from cadavers lasts not too long (at best, a couple years, at worst it fails immediately on restart). Creating native (genetically matching) and living tissue, you go from potential failure in the forseeable future to potential failure in another area before the patch fails.

  • I'd like not to have to wear a hat to keep my scalp from being sunburned.
    • by alantus ( 882150 )

      I second that! Is there any research going on to grow hair???
      I know being bald is not as bad as having a heart problem, but it is definitely something that people need and would make a lot of money in return.

  • Actually, this is in part a question. Although I could probably read TFA to find out (maybe it answers this) but one issue with rejuvenation is rewinding the telomeres (so to speak) so they aren't too long (cancer) and aren't too short (premature cell death). There are a lot of clocks in cells and tissue, and my general question is: Does skin -> stem -> tissue cell reset them all so that the new tissue really is "like that of a newborn" or whatever with the original DNA complement?

    Not good to be
  • Could the same method be applied to the Pancreas?
  • So there's still hope for Dick Cheney?

"I don't believe in sweeping social change being manifested by one person, unless he has an atomic weapon." -- Howard Chaykin