Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Heart cells change stem cell behavior

Rice University, Texas Children’s study shows amniotic fluid stem cells, heart cells pass signals without touching
Stem cells drawn from amniotic fluid show promise for tissue engineering, but it’s important to know what they can and cannot do. A new study by researchers at Rice University and Texas Children’s Hospital has shown that these stem cells can communicate with mature heart cells and form electrical couplings with each other similar to those found in heart tissue. But these electrical connections alone do not prompt amniotic cells to become cardiac cells.

The study led by bioengineer Jeff Jacot, who has a joint appointment at Rice and Texas Children’s, is part of ongoing research into repairing the hearts of infants born with congenital defects. Jacot’s lab is designing scaffold patches that can be implanted into infant hearts. The patches, seeded with stem cells from the mother’s own amniotic fluid, would ideally prompt the growth of healthy tissue that would not be rejected.

But to get there, researchers have to figure out how signals that are passed from cell to cell might guide stem cells to differentiate into heart tissue.

In a paper that appears today in the Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, Jacot and his team found that amniotic fluid stem cells that are cultured with but physically separated from rat heart cells (to keep them from fusing) don’t differentiate into heart cells. But the stem and heart cells do communicate through channels in the thin membrane that allow ions and small molecules to pass.

“People have suggested that if amniotic fluid cells are in an environment where they’re near heart cells, something happens that causes differentiation of the amniotic fluid cells into cardiac tissue,” Jacot said. “We found that isn’t the case.”

He said researchers have seen other types of stem cells take on the characteristics of cardiac cells and determined it was because the cells had fused together. “You get a single cell with proteins from both the stem cells and the heart cells,” he said.

Jacot wanted to see if amniotic cells could take on the characteristics of heart cells if they weren’t allowed to fuse. “We showed there’s no evidence of actual cardiac differentiation, although there were some changes in protein expression (among the stem cells),” he said. But the stem cells “become electrically coupled to each other, like cardiac cells do with each other. That was the main finding: We do get very good electrical coupling, which we call functional gap junction connections.

“Electrical ions or really small molecules that are in one cell can diffuse directly into a cell next to it,” he said. “It’s like they put holes in their membranes when they’re up against each other.”

Knowing what signals are passed is of great value as researchers figure out how to prompt stem cells to differentiate into the desired tissue, Jacot said.

He said other labs are studying how injecting amniotic fluid stem cells directly into hearts can help recovery after a heart attack. “There are a lot of people doing this with bone marrow-derived stem cells in the U.S., including two of the biggest groups in Houston, the Methodist Hospital and the Texas Heart Institute,” Jacot said. “They seem to find what we call paracrine signaling effects, where the stem cells draw in more blood vessel-forming cells. There’s some discussion as to whether they stabilize the cells, but don’t seem to actually make new heart tissue.”

Jacot said there are probably many ways to get amniotic fluid stem cells to differentiate into viable tissue for medical uses, and the new results are just a small step toward the goal of finding the best way.

“What we’ve observed is a little removed from any kind of translational therapeutic aspect,” he said. “But we feel what we’ve observed will help us understand amniotic fluid stem cells in this environment.”

Co-authors are Rice graduate student Jennifer Petsche Connell, Rice junior Emily Augustini and maternal-fetal specialists Kenneth Moise Jr. and Anthony Johnson. Jacot is an assistant professor of bioengineering at Rice, director of the Pediatric Cardiac Bioengineering Laboratory at the Congenital Heart Surgery Service at Texas Children’s and an adjunct assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine.

Texas Children’s Hospital, the Virginia and L.E. Simmons Family Foundation, the National Science Foundation and the American Heart Association supported the research.

Read the abstract at

Follow Rice News and Media Relations via Twitter @RiceUNews

Related Materials:
Jacot Lab:

Mike Williams | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht First time-lapse footage of cell activity during limb regeneration
25.10.2016 | eLife

nachricht Phenotype at the push of a button
25.10.2016 | Institut für Pflanzenbiochemie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Greater Range and Longer Lifetime

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VDI presents International Bionic Award of the Schauenburg Foundation

26.10.2016 | Awards Funding

3-D-printed magnets

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>