July 25, 2012
Dear Friend of the Texas Heart Institute,
One of the critical needs in repairing a damaged human heart is to find a practical and safe means of generating healthy new heart muscle.
Today, we are proud to report new findings being published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) that have significantly added to our current body of knowledge regarding this process. (See the full news release on our website for details: Researchers Mark Progress in Reprogramming Skin Cells Into Heart Muscle.)
Working collaboratively with the University of Houston (UH), the Texas A&M Health Science Center in Houston, and Baylor College of Medicine, our Texas Heart Institute team recently discovered a new way to convert human skin cells from an individual into his or her beating heart muscle cells. This finding is extremely important due to the heart's lack of regenerative capability on its own. The team was led by Robert J. Schwartz, PhD, Director of Stem Cell Engineering at the Texas Heart Institute and Director of UH's Center for Molecular Medicine and Experimental Therapeutics.
It is expected that the findings from this research will provide future opportunities for cell therapies and heart regeneration in humans. The research team's next steps are to test how stable and safe converted skin cells are over time in animal models, and to determine the implications of injecting these cells into human hearts.
It is our hope that these findings, as they mature, will enable physicians to convert a patient's own skin cells into his or her new heart muscle cells to repair damage to hearts from heart attacks, viral injury, genetic abnormalities, etc., and ultimately be a first step in regenerating the whole heart when it is badly injured.
With great respect,
James T. Willerson, MD
President and Medical Director
Contact Dr. Willerson
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