British scientists have developed a pioneering method of creating stem cells from a patient’s blood to repair the damage caused by heart and circulatory disease.
The scientists created stem cells from blood
Stem cells can be transformed into any other type of cell the body is built from, so scientists believe they have the capability to repair everything including the heart, the brain and bone.
A new method developed in the UK has been hailed as the safest and easiest source of producing stem cells, and it is hoped that the technique could one day be used for NHS patients as well as those with private health insurance.
Researchers from the University of Cambridge grew blood in a laboratory and isolated a particular cell type called “late outgrowth endothelial progenitor cells”.
These samples can be stored for significant periods of time and turned into stem cells called iPS cells. iPS cells can then be transformed into any other cell in the body, including those from the heart or blood vessels.
Dr Amer Rana, who led the study, said: "We are excited to have developed a practical and efficient method to create stem cells from a cell type found in blood."
“We were able to develop a method that can be used on patients on masse.”
Writing in the journal Stem Cells: Translational Medicine, scientists hope to use these cells to study disease. One day they could be rebuilt into tissue to repair the damage caused by heart and circulatory disease.
The new method is both patient-friendly and efficient. In the past, iPS cells have had to be taken from the skin or other tissues, requiring surgery such as a biopsy. Dr Rana said:
"Tissue biopsies are undesirable – particularly for children and the elderly – whereas taking blood samples is routine for all patients.”
Dr Rana said the method cannot be used on humans yet because of several safety issues, but the next step is to transfer it from the lab to the clinic. The research was funded by the British Heart Foundation and the Medical Research Council.
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