Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Growing a Human Heart, One Embryonic Cell at a Time

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Australian researchers have witnessed how human stem cells can be turned into heart cells after measuring changes in gene activity through the stages of heart development.

Unlike many tissues such as skin and bone, the heart does not have the capacity for self-repair after damage. This is one reason why heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide.

To explore human heart development, the researchers chose to mimic how a heart develops in the embryo. “If we can get to grips with the complex choreography of how the heart builds itself in the first place, we’re well placed to find new approaches to helping it rebuild after damage,” said Dr Nathan Palpant of The University of Queensland Institute for Molecular Bioscience, who co-led the research published in Cell Stem Cell (

The team started with skin-derived human pluripotent stem cells that are capable of giving rise to any cell type in the body, and directed them to develop into heart cells. RNA sequencing catalogued exactly how individual stem cells transformed into mature heart cells. For each of 40,000 individual heart cells, the researchers measured the activity of about 17,000 genes.

“Each cell goes through its own series of complex, nuanced changes,” said research co-leader A/Prof Joseph Powell...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.