Tuesday, 14 March 2006
Japanese researchers have harvested stem cells from human menstrual blood, a medical conference has heard.
The researchers say these stem cells could be coaxed into forming specialised heart cells, which might one-day be used to treat failing or damaged hearts.
At the meeting of the American College of Cardiology
, Dr Shunichiro Miyoshi reported that he and his colleagues at Keio University
in Tokyo collected menstrual blood from six women and harvested stem cells that originated in the lining of the uterus.
They were able to obtain about 30 times more stem cells from menstrual blood than from bone marrow, Miyoshi says.
The stem cells were then cultured in a way to induce them to become heart cells.
After five days about half of the cells contracted "spontaneously, rhythmical and synchronously, suggesting the presence of electrical communication" between the cells, Miyoshi says.
That is to say, they behaved like heart cells.
The researcher explains that already stem cells derived from bone marrow have improved heart function, mainly by producing new blood vessels rather than new heart-muscle tissue.
He emphasises that it is important that these cells be obtained from younger patients, because they would have a longer lifespan than cells harvested from older donors.