Scientists are reporting that they have been able to use human cells to grow new blood vessels in a mouse, a breakthrough that may help heart attack patients some day.
To do this, the scientists took cells known as progenitor cells from humans and injected them into mice. The cells eventually morphed into active blood vessels.
“What’s really significant about our study is that we are using human cells that can be obtained from blood or bone marrow rather than removing and using fully developed blood vessels,” said Joyce Bischoff, lead author of the study and associate professor at Harvard Medical School.
The difference between actual stem cells and progenitor cells is the fact that progenitor cells only have the ability to turn into one type of tissue, as opposed to stem cells that can be made to turn into various types of human tissue.
The only drawback with the discovery is that the action that is needed to turn the cells into blood vessels takes a lot of time, and researchers state that they need to find a way of speeding up this process if the technique could ever be used for actual heart patients.
“We are proving the concept in mice who are compromised so that they don’t reject human cells,” said Melero-Martin, a research fellow at Harvard Medical School and Children’s Hospital Boston. “For clinical use, the way we envision it, if a patient has need to vascularize ischemic tissue, we can get cells from the patient ahead of time, grow them and inject them back into the patient.”