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Scientists Turn Skin Cells Into Cardiac Cells to Help Failing Hearts

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Skin cells turned into heart cellsIn a medical science first, researchers turned skin cells from heart failure patients into heart muscle cells that may then be used to fix damaged cardiac tissue.

The researchers said the achievement -- done initially with rats -- opens up the prospect of using heart failure patients' own stem cells -- a form of cell called human-induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) -- to repair damaged hearts. And since the reprogrammed stem cells would originate with the patient, their immune systems would not reject the cells as foreign, the researchers explained.

They added, however, that many obstacles must be overcome before it would be possible to use hiPSCs in humans this way, and any clinical trial would be at least five to 10 years away.

"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," study leader Lior Gepstein said in a European Heart Journal news release. The study's findings are scheduled for online publication in the journal.

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