Researchers isolate and purify mouse heart stem cells

February 26, 2009 By Krishna Ramanujan
This image shows isolated, beating green heart stem cells in culture.

(PhysOrg.com) -- A pioneering Cornell and University of Bonn study has isolated and purified mouse heart stem cells, settling a debate over whether such cells exist.

The findings, published online and in an upcoming issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could allow researchers to better understand whether genes can spur heart stem cells to fully differentiate into new cells after a heart attack.

The researchers, led by Michael I. Kotlikoff, the Austin O. Hooey Dean of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell, used a green fluorescent protein to label mouse heart precursor (or stem) cells and identify the cells during embryo development and immediately following birth. The fluorescent protein label also revealed that the number of cells, which differentiate into all three heart cell types (cardiac, endothelial and smooth muscle), decline drastically soon after birth.

The new method could be used to quickly and rapidly isolate and purify both heart and other stem cell populations in the laboratory; to study gene expression that leads to these cells differentiating into other cell types; to track the timing of these cells and when and where they differentiate into other cell types in vivo; and to compare heart stem cells with other types of stem cells.

"The existence of cardiac stem cells and the ability of adult stem cells to form new heart muscle have been the subject of much scientific disagreement, as there are so few of these cells in the adult heart," said Kotlikoff, who co-authored the study with Yvonne Tallini, a Cornell research scientist in biomedical sciences, and Bernd Fleischmann of the University of Bonn.

"We now have a simple way to identify these cells within the heart and to isolate and study the factors that control their fate," Kotlikoff added.

Researchers had questioned the existence of these cells, because the heart has very little regenerative capacity after an infarction, which creates a permanent scar. To address this question, the group looked for the cells after heart infarction, and found that heart stem cells form vessels that invade the scar tissue, but do not form new heart cells. Heart cells surrounding the dead tissue express a protein marker for these stem cells at low levels, suggesting that they are attempting to respond to grow new heart cells after an injury, but the response is incomplete. This may explain the detection of these cells after an injury, but their failure to re-grow new heart tissue.

Provided by Cornell University

Explore further: Scientists find that for stem cells to be healthy, telomere length has to be just right

Related Stories

What happens in the cell nucleus after fertilization

December 6, 2016

A team of scientists at the Helmholtz Zentrum München shows changes in the immediate environment of DNA after the ovum and sperm fuse to form the zygote. The results suggest why all conceivable somatic cells can develop ...

TET proteins drive early neurogenesis

December 7, 2016

The fate of stem cells is determined by series of choices that sequentially narrow their available options until stem cells' offspring have found their station and purpose in the body. Their decisions are guided in part by ...

Controlling gene activity in human development

December 6, 2016

Researchers at the Babraham Institute have revealed a new understanding of the molecular switches that control gene activity in human embryonic stem cells. This insight provides new avenues for improving the efficiency of ...

Recommended for you

Cow gene study shows why most clones fail

December 9, 2016

It has been 20 years since Dolly the sheep was successfully cloned in Scotland, but cloning mammals remains a challenge. A new study by researchers from the U.S. and France of gene expression in developing clones now shows ...

Blueprint for shape in ancient land plants

December 9, 2016

Scientists from the Universities of Bristol and Cambridge have unlocked the secrets of shape in the most ancient of land plants using time-lapse imaging, growth analysis and computer modelling.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.