Monash Researchers Lead New Way to Make Heart Cells

24 October 2011

Dr David Elliott, a Monash stem cell researcher from the laboratories of Professors Andrew Elefanty and Ed Stanley, is the lead author of the paper that identifies a new way to make heart cells in the lab.

In this globally significant research outcome, Monash scientists, who are also involved in the new Stem Cells Australia initiative, were able to reliably make heart cells directly from human embryonic stem cells, a potentially inexhaustible source of heart cells for research and drug discovery.

By linking a green fluorescent marker - originally from a jelly-fish - to a gene important in heart cells, the team was able to identify and capture early developing/precursor/immature heart cells growing in the laboratory. 

The researchers also isolated other new marker proteins expressed on these cells, which will lead to further improvements.  In the future, these markers could be potentially used as ‘handles’ to pull out and purify heart cells from cultures of embryonic or induced pluripotent stem cells more easily without having to use genetic modification.

"This exciting study describes a novel fluorescent reporter cell line that will be an invaluable tool for the development of stem cell based therapies for cardiac disease,” said Martin Pera, Program Leader at Stem Cells Australia.   

“The Monash group lead the world in the application of gene targeting in human embryonic stem cells, and in exploiting this powerful technology to study cell differentiation.  

“Importantly, the team used the cell line they developed to identify new cell surface markers that will enable isolation of cardiac progenitors from any stem cell line without the need for genetic modification, a finding that will further accelerate research in this field."

The Monash group, led by Professors Andrew Elefanty and Ed Stanley, are using similar strategies to isolate insulin-producing cells for the treatment of diabetes, and blood cells for the treatment of leukemias, cancers of blood-forming tissues.

This study, which represents a collaboration of 26 researchers from the Monash School of Biomedical Sciences, Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Science, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute and Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, in Melbourne; Leiden University Medical Centre and Netherlands Proteomics Institute, in the Netherlands, builds on over 10 years of work by Professors Andrew Elefanty and Ed Stanley.  The Australian researchers were funded by the Australian Stem Cell Centre, the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia, National Heart Foundation of Australia and Victorian State Government.

Find out more:
NKX2.5(eGFP/w) hESCs for isolation of human cardiac progenitors and cardiomyocytes. Nature Methods (2011) Elliott et al 8(12):1037-40 [subscription maybe required]

Media coverage:
Heart disease research breakthrough sparks cure hope HERALD SUN 24 October 2011
Green heart boost possibility of stem cell therapies LIFE SCIENTIST 24 October 2011 
Cell Surface Marker Identified to Isolate Cardiomyocytes Derived from Human Pluripotent Stem Cells GENETIC ENGINEERING & BIOTECHNOLOGY NEWS 24 October 2011