Human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) can be programmed to differentiate into countless different cell types. hESCs are already being tested in humans to treat retinal diseases and spinal cord injuries. hESCs can be differentiated into cardiomyocytes, or heart muscle cells, to potentially repair a damaged heart after injury or failure. In a recent study, Chong and colleagues used hESC-derived cardiomyocytes (hESC-CMs) to repair injured monkey hearts, which are more comparable to human hearts in size and number of cardiomyocytes required. After first developing techniques for producing large, clinical-scale cryopreserved batches of hESC-CMs, Chong and colleagues found that these cells successfully re-muscularized the injured monkey hearts. The electromechanical coupling between host heart tissue and hESC-CM graft tissue was successful, yet non-fatal arrhythmias were observed. In the images above, host vessels (red) extend into graft tissue (white, boxed region and higher magnification below) and are able to successfully perfuse the graft tissue.
Chong, J., Yang, X., Don, C., Minami, E., Liu, Y., Weyers, J., Mahoney, W., Van Biber, B., Cook, S., Palpant, N., Gantz, J., Fugate, J., Muskheli, V., Gough, G., Vogel, K., Astley, C., Hotchkiss, C., Baldessari, A., Pabon, L., Reinecke, H., Gill, E., Nelson, V., Kiem, H., Laflamme, M., & Murry, C. (2014). Human embryonic-stem-cell-derived cardiomyocytes regenerate non-human primate hearts Nature, 510 (7504), 273-277 DOI: 10.1038/nature13233
Adapted by permission from Macmillan Publishers Ltd, copyright ©2014