Scientists Find 'Master' Cells For Human Heart

Stem cells can mature into three different kinds of heart tissue
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 1, 2009 2:51 PM CDT
A doctor points out one of the three major coronary arteries using a model of the human heart in this 2002 file photo, with the pink tubes depicting a heart after bypass surgery.   (AP Photo/Tom Gannam)
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(Newser) – Researchers have found a cell that can become three different kinds of heart tissue, the Boston Globe reports. Harvard scientists hope that such “master” heart cells can be used to grow tissue so that researchers can perform experiments or test medications on human heart tissue, instead of animal substitutes.

Researchers could “add one drug, two drugs, or all combinations of drugs a heart patient would take” to test effectiveness and toxicity, one researcher says. Because pharmaceutical firms could immediately perform tests on human tissue, they could skip costly animal trials—the results of which don’t always apply to humans. They would also be alerted to potential side effects before starting clinical trials on patients.