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Mouse stem-cell study examines heart repair

Category: Heart Health and Cholesterol

Scientists have taken the first steps toward producing the "heart patch," a design for a medical implement used to repair damage from heart disease, a new study suggests.

Last week, researchers from Duke University presented the results of a study which, using mouse embryonic stem cells, examined the way these cells develop into heart muscle, HealthDay News reports.

In the study, the scientists were able to create a 3-D patch of heart muscle cells, or cardiomyocytes, using a special mold which allowed them to control the direction and orientation of the developing tissue.

The patch created a tissue which, like heart muscle cells, had the ability to contract and to conduct electrical impulses in lab tests.

Researchers note, however, that more information is needed to understand how human heart muscle cells develop. "Human cardiomyocytes tend to grow a lot slower than those of mice," said Nenad Bursac, an assistant professor at Duke's Pratt School of Engineering. "Since it takes nine months for the human heart to complete development, we need to find a way to get the cells to grow faster while maintaining the same essential properties of native cells."

The development would change how some doctors approach the treatment of heart disease, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports killed 652,091 Americans in 2005.

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