New York: By transforming human scar cells into blood vessel cells, scientists have discovered a new way to repair damaged tissue.
The method appeared to improve blood flow, oxygenation and nutrition in injured areas.
Fibroblasts - cells that cause scarring and are plentiful throughout the human body - can be coaxed into becoming endothelium, an entirely different type of adult cell that forms the lining of blood vessels, the scientists learnt.
"To our knowledge, this is the first time that trans-differentiation to a therapeutic cell type has been accomplished," said the study's principal investigator Chair John Cooke from the Houston Methodist Research Institute in the US.
"In this particular case, we have found a way to turn fibroblasts into 'shapeshifters' nearly on command," Cooke added.
The new method described by the scientists involves tricking fibroblasts cells into reacting as if attacked by a virus.
Fibroblasts' response to a viral attack - or, in this case, a fake viral attack - appears to be a vital step in diverting fibroblasts toward a new cell fate, the researchers found.
The regenerative medicine approach provides proof-of-concept that a small molecule therapy that could one day be used to improve the healing of cardio-vascular damage or other injuries.
"It is likely that modifications of this small molecule approach may be used to generate other body cells of therapeutic interest," Cooke concluded.
The study appeared will appear in the upcoming issue of Circulation.