Two research teams have claimed this month that embryonic stem cells (ESCs) can help restore heart function — although human applications are still years away. In Israel, scientists at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology generated heart cells which functioned as biological pacemakers. The technique has been successful in pacing pigs’ ventricles.
And in New York, scientists from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center injected ESCs into mouse embryos which had a genetic heart problem which normally proves fatal. The cells developed into healthy heart tissue and influenced neighbouring cells by secreting two key signalling molecules. Their experiment indicates that there still much more to be learned about the chemistry of how ESCs actually work.
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