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School of Medicine and Public Health

New study identifies protein essential to form stem cell-derived human heart cells

Photo of Senior Scientist Jianhua Zhang, PhD

Lab-grown human heart cells provide a powerful tool to understand and potentially treat heart disease. However, the methods to produce human heart cells from pluripotent stem cells are not optimal.

Fortunately, a new study from researchers in the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Stem Cell & Regenerative Medicine Center (SCRMC) is providing key insight that will aid researchers in growing cardiac cells from stem cells.

The research, published recently in eLife, investigates the role of extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins in the generation of heart cells derived from human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs). The ECM fills the space between cells, providing structural support and regulating formation of tissues and organs.

With a better understanding of ECM and its impact on heart development, researchers will be able to more effectively develop heart muscle cells, called cardiomyocytes, that could be useful for cardiac repair, regeneration and cell therapy.

“How the ECM impacts the generation of hPSC-cardiomyocytes has been largely overlooked,” says Senior Scientist Jianhua Zhang, PhD, who led the study with Timothy Kamp, MD, professor, Cardiovascular Medicine, and director of the SCRMC and the Cellular and Molecular Arrhythmia Research Program.

“The better we understand how the soluble factors as well as the ECM proteins work in the cell culture and differentiation, the closer we get to our goals.”

—Rebekah McBride

Read full articles at the UW-Madison Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Center or at UW-Madison News