Scientists grow heart cells in lab

Updated: Nov 03, 2011, 19:27 PM IST

Sydney: Scientists have hit upon a new and reliable way of producing heart cells in a lab, which would help in the battle against heart diseases.

The Monash University-led research shows how human heart cells can be consistently produced from embryonic stem cells, creating a potentially inexhaustible source for research and drug discovery.

Researcher David Elliott, along with Andrew Elefanty and Ed Stanley, both professors at Monash Immunology and Stem Cell Lab, led the group which worked with a number of institutions in Australia and overseas to develop the method, reports the journal Nature Methods.

"We linked a green fluorescent marker - originally from a jelly-fish - to a gene found in heart cells, causing them to glow," Elliott said, according to a Monash statement.

"Using this cell line we have discovered two new cell surface proteins that we can use as `handles` to allow us to grab only the cardiac cells from cultures containing different cell types," Elliott said.

"Importantly, we can use these handles to isolate and study cardiac cells grown from the stem cells of heart disease patients, and, in this way model heart disease in a dish."

"This finding is significant because up until now the development of drugs to treat heart disease has been hampered by the lack of a dependable supply of heart cells for experimentation," Elliott said.