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First biological pacemaker developed from human stem cells

The scientists used a developmental-biology approach to ascertain a specific protocol for generating the pacemaker cells.

Dec 27, 2016 14:22 IST
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A group of scientists from the McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine developed the first functional pacemaker cells from human stem cells.

The invention will help in paving the way for alternate, biological pacemaker therapy.

The study was published in December 2016 the journal Nature Biotechnology.

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Key highlights of the study

  • The scientists used a developmental-biology approach to ascertain a specific protocol for generating the pacemaker cells.
  • The study stated that sinoatrial node cardiomyocytes derived from human pluripotent cells function as a biological pacemaker.
  • It goes on to explain that human pluripotent stem cells can be manoeuvred in 21 days to develop into pacemaker cells, which regulate heart beats with electrical impulses.
  • The human pacemaker cells were tested in rat hearts. The electrical impulses that trigger the contraction of the heart were activated, which helped it to function as a biological pacemaker.
  • Pluripotent stem cells hold the potential to differentiate into more than 200 different cell types that make up every tissue and organ in the body.
  • Sinoatrial node pacemaker cells are the heart's chief pacemaker. It controls the heartbeat throughout life.

Importance of the invention

  • The biological pacemakers hold promising alternative to electronic pacemakers. The human pacemakers can overcome drawbacks of electronic pacemakers, such as lack of hormonal responsiveness and the inability to adapt to changes in heart size in pediatric patients.
  • This new technology can potentially be used use to make pacemaker cells from patients suffering from pacemaker dysfunction.
  • The patient-specific cells can also be used to study the "disease in a (petri) dish" and to identify new drugs that will improve their pacemaker function.

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