[Mewnews note: Good things happen in the Middle East too. It was amazing to see
these bits of tissue culture pulsing on TV these evening]
[D.S.c Technion Med School. 1979]
ISRAELI TEAM FROM TECHNION GROWS HEART CELLS FROM HUMAN
EMBRYONIC STEM CELLS
Technion - Israel Institute of Technology, Technion City, Haifa 32000,
Tel: 04-8235193, Fax: 04-8235195
Contact: Dr. Lior Gepstein, Faculty of Medicine, Technion: 04-8295303
Israeli Team from Technion Grows Heart Cells From Human
Embryonic Stem Cells
A group of researchers from the Rappaport faculty of Medicine at the
Technion and the Rambam Medical Center have succeeded, for the first time in
the world, to grow human heart cells in a lab, from embryonic stem cells.
The tissue they have created can spontaneously beat and has the electric and
mechanical characteristics of young heart tissue.
The research is being published today (August 1, 2001) in the August issue
of the prestigious scientific journal, Journal of Clinical Investigation. The
study was conducted by Dr. Itzhak Kehat under the instruction of Dr. Lior
Gepstein, of the Rappaport Faculty of Medicine at the Technion, and of
Rambam Medical Center, Haifa.
The research was conducted in collaboration with the team of Professor
Joseph Itskovitz, a member of Technion's Faculty of Medicine and Director of
Obstetrics and Gynecology at Rambam Medical Center.
Professor Itskovitz was the first scientist to describe human embryonic stem
cells three years ago, together with researchers from the University of
Wisconsin. These cells posses two main characteristics: the have infinite
ability to proliferate, and they can differentiate into all the tissues of
the body. Since that breakthrough three years ago, leading laboratories in
the world have been researching ways of differentiating embryonic stem cells
into various tissues (nerve cells, blood cells, cartilage, pancreas etc).
Professor Raphael Beyar, Dean of the Baruch Rappaport Faculty of Medicine at
Technion and the Director of the Invasive Cardiology Unit at Rambam Medical
Center in Haifa, says that Dr. Gepstein and Dr. Kehat's research carries far
reaching research and application implications: adult heart cells are not
able to renew themselves and so any damage caused to the heart muscle is
irreversible and results in a decrease of the heart's activity. Heart
failure is a disease that severely damages the heart muscle and weakens the
heart so that it cannot pump enough blood through the body. This is one of
the major killers in the world today," says Prof. Beyar, adding that this
research may lead to breakthrough interventional tools for patients with
end-stage heart failure, who are often dependent on the availability of
heart donors. "The potential treatment of heart disease with cell
transplantations is simply huge," concludes Beyar. This research will
hopefully enable future applications such as implanting muscle cells into
impaired areas to improve heart function. The transplant could take place by
injecting single cells during catheterization or implanting an engineered
tissue. Since these cells exhibit characteristics of young heart tissue,
there is a chance that this tissue could repair damage caused to the heart.
Professor Itskovitz and Dr. Gepstein's research is just a first step in this
direction of treatment. Research being conducted in the world today is
examining ways of directing the differentiation of embryonic stem cells to
create tissue in which the percentage of heart cells in larger. There is
still a need to examine if these cells survive a more extensive period of
time after being implanted in a human heart, and if they succeed to repair
damages to the heart, how to prevent the rejection of the implant.
Haviva Roger, Technion Spokesperson 04-8235193, 050-462400
DGM 1/8/01 656/2001