A heart patient's own skin cells soon could be used to repair damaged cardiac tissue thanks to pioneering stem cell research of the University of Houston's newest biomedical scientist, Robert Schwartz.
His new technique for reprogramming human skin cells puts him at the forefront of a revolution in medicine that could one day lead to treatments for Alzheimer's, diabetes, muscular dystrophy and many other diseases.
Schwartz brings his ground-breaking research to UH as the Cullen Distinguished Professor of Biology and Biochemistry and head of UH's new Center for Gene Regulation and Molecular Therapeutics. He also is affiliated with the Texas Heart Institute at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital in the Texas Medical Center, where he is director of stem cell engineering.
"Professor Schwartz's work will save lives, and his decision to pursue this pioneering research at UH is a big leap forward on our way to Tier-One status," said John Bear, dean of the UH College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. "Together with the many other outstanding scientists we've assembled here, Schwartz will help make this university a major player in medical research."
Schwartz devised a method for turning ordinary human skin cells into heart cells. The cells developed are similar to embryonic stem cells and ultimately can be made into early-stage heart cells derived from a patient's own skin. These then could be implanted and grown into fully developed beating heart cells, reversing the damage caused by previous heart attacks. These new cells would replace the damaged cardiac tissue that weakens the heart's ability to pump, develops into scar tissue and causes arrhythmias. Early clinical trials using these reprogrammed cells on actual heart patients could begin within one or two years.
Although Schwartz is not the first scientist to turn adult cells into such stem cells, his improved method could pave the way for breakthroughs in other diseases. Schwartz's method requires fewer steps and yields more stem cells. Armed with an effective way to make induced stem cells from a patient's own skin, scientists can then begin the work of growing all kinds of human cells.
For example, new brain cells could treat Alzheimer's patients or those with severe brain trauma, or a diabetic could get new insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Generating new kidney, lung or liver tissue is also possible, with scientists even being able to one day grow an entirely new heart or other organ from these reprogrammed cells. Additionally, Schwartz and his team are working on turning induced stem cells into skeletal muscle cells to treat muscular dystrophy.
"We're trying to advance science in ways folks never even dreamed about," Schwartz said. "The idea of having your own bag of stem cells that you can carry through life and use for tissue regeneration is at the very cutting edge of science."
This latest biomedical hire is a major step in the UH Health Initiative, an effort aimed at having the university become a world-class center for medical research. Creating new cross-disciplinary academic and health-related research opportunities for faculty and students is crucial to this initiative, as are collaborations with other Texas Medical Center member institutions. One of its top goals is to increase the amount of sponsored research expenditures awarded to UH, which is a key factor in attaining Tier-One status.
"Dr. Schwartz will expand UH's expertise in promising new areas of scientific discovery to alleviate human disease. By recruiting premier scientists like Schwartz, UH is fast becoming a major player in the regional biomedical research community," said Kathryn Peek, assistant vice president of University Health Initiatives at UH.
Schwartz has decades of experience at the Texas Medical Center. Before coming to UH, he was director of the Institute of Biosciences and Technology, a research component of the Texas A&M Health Science Center. He also was a longtime tenured professor at Baylor College of Medicine and co-directed the school's Center for Cardiovascular Development. The new research center Schwartz heads at UH will be housed in state-of-the-art laboratory facilities at the university's Science and Engineering Research Center.
What attracted him to UH was the commitment of administrators and faculty to making the university a premier center for biomedical research. His hiring comes just a year after the arrival of Jan-Åke Gustafsson, a world-renowned scientist and cancer researcher. They join other leading UH faculty, ranging from biochemists to computer scientists and mathematicians, who are deeply involved in cutting-edge medical research.
About the University of Houston
The University of Houston, Texas' premier metropolitan research and teaching institution, is home to more than 40 research centers and institutes and sponsors more than 300 partnerships with corporate, civic and governmental entities. UH, the most diverse research university in the country, stands at the forefront of education, research and service with more than 37,000 students.
About the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics
The UH College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, with 170 ranked faculty and approximately 4,500 students, offers bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in the natural sciences, computational sciences and mathematics. Faculty members in the departments of biology and biochemistry, chemistry, computer science, earth and atmospheric sciences, mathematics and physics conduct internationally recognized research in collaboration with industry, Texas Medical Center institutions, NASA and others worldwide.
For more information about UH, visit the university's Newsroom at http://www.uh.edu/news-events/.
To receive UH science news via e-mail, visit http://www.uh.edu/news-events/mailing-lists/sciencelistserv.php.
For additional news alerts about UH, follow us on Facebook at http://tinyurl.com/6qw9ht and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/UH_News.
Lisa Merkl | EurekAlert!
Further reports about: > Medical Wellness > Science TV > Texas > biomedical research > brain cell > embryonic stem cell > health services > heart cells > human cell > human skin > human skin cells > insulin-producing cell > medical research > muscular dystrophy > natural science > skin cell > stem cells
Bolstering fat cells offers potential new leukemia treatment
17.10.2017 | McMaster University
Ocean atmosphere rife with microbes
17.10.2017 | King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (KAUST)
University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event
On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...
Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.
Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....
Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).
When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...
Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.
How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.
It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...
17.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
17.10.2017 | Life Sciences
17.10.2017 | Life Sciences
17.10.2017 | Earth Sciences