'Biowire' Could Be Major Step Toward Viable Cardiac Patches

Fri, 06/28/2013 - 9:18am
Elizabeth Armstrong Moore

Be still my beating heart. Or, rather, be very, very fast, so that it can be used by science.

This is the battle cry out of the University of Toronto, where researchers are unveiling a biowire that could lead to the production of mature cardiac patches that are derived from real human cardiomyocytes (heart cells). Reporting this week in the scientific journal Nature Methods, cardiac researchers say the tech could lead to the development of mature cardiac patches in a range of sizes.

Let's back up, because when it comes to matters of the heart, things get complicated fast.

Cardiac researchers have for several years been frustrated by the inability to obtain human heart cells from human patients -- the cells simply don't proliferate in large enough numbers, so researchers have used heart cells derived from what are called reprogrammed human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPCS). It was a big deal when this tech was invented back in 2006, but these stem cells tend to be too immature to provide much of anything for either transplants or research.

So Milica Radisic, who among her many titles is the Canada Research Chair in Functional Cardiovascular Tissue Engineering and was, in 2008, an MIT Technology Review "top Innovator Under 35," decided that it was time to figure out a way to age these cells so that they look and function more like adult heart cells. "Can we mature these cells to become more like adult cells?" she wondered.

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