Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles have matured induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells into what appear to be normal motor neurons. This work shows that iPS cells can mature into cells that appear similar to those derived from human embryonic stem cells – a finding that has important implications for people hoping to create new therapies based on iPS cells. These cells are created by reprogramming adult cells back into a pluripotent state that resembles embryonic stem cells. One question has been whether these reprogrammed cells have the same capacity as embryonic stem cells to turn into mature, functioning cell types. This work shows that, at least for motor neurons, iPS and embryonic stem cells have the same capacity to form mature cells. Scientists can study these motor neurons in the lab to learn about – and find cures for – diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), spinal muscle atrophy or spinal cord injury.
Researchers at the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease may have discovered why developing heart muscles cells multiply in numbers while the adult counterparts do not. This finding could lead to therapies that roll back the clocks on heart muscle cells after injury such as a heart attack, allowing those cells to multiply and repair the damage. The researchers specifically looked at the role of cells called fibroblasts, which are packed in the heart amidst the muscle cells. They found that fibroblasts in embryonic mouse hearts release proteins that encourage the muscle cells to divide. In contrast, fibroblasts in adult hearts release proteins that encourage muscle cells to expand in size but actively inhibit the cells from multiplying. That role makes sense in healthy hearts, where new cells aren’t needed, but after injury those fibroblasts prevent the heart from being able to repair itself. The researchers hope this finding could lead to new ways of repairing heart tissue after injury.