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A heart.

New hope for hearts

From M, spring 2007

University of Minnesota researchers have found a cell type in adult rat hearts that can make all types of cardiac cells. This offers hope that someday these cells could be used to repair heart muscle damaged by a heart attack or to grow new blood vessels for use in bypass surgery.

The researchers grew the cells from rat heart tissue in a dish. The cells were able to generate all types of cardiac cells, such as those found in the left and right ventricles and blood vessels. The cells even beat in a laboratory dish, as more mature heart muscle cells will do.

Then they injected the cells into rats with injured hearts and documented that the cells repaired the damaged tissue, said Doris Taylor, professor of physiology and director of the Center for Cardiovascular Repair.

"They appear at this time to be the ideal cell to use for cardiac repair," Taylor says. "They do everything embryonic cardiac cells do, and they don't create teratomas, or tumors."

The next steps will be to grow the cells from human heart tissue and to repeat the experiment in a larger animal, such as a pig.