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Scientists from IISc, Bengaluru, use stem cells to culture cardiac cells

Scientists from around the world have invested their time and money in stem cell research to develop new methods for treatment of various diseases and conditions. As reported by The Hindu, this time, scientists from Bengaluru based Indian Institute of Sciences (IISc) have successfully grown cardiac cells by using stem cells from a mouse.The research was carried out for seven long years and led to the development of cardiac cells that function and beat in rhythms as an original cell does.

What are stem cells?

Stem cells are the basic cells of our body and they mature into various different of cells belonging to different tissues. They are derived from human umbilical cord or bone marrow. Stem cell therapy is based on the principle that stem cells migrate to the site of the injury and transform themselves to form new tissue cells that can replace the damaged ones. They have the capacity to multiply and renew themselves almost indefinitely and can form mature nerve cells, muscle cells and blood cells. In this therapy they are taken out of the body, and kept under artificial conditions (also called as induction of the stem cells) where they mature into the type of cells that are required to heal a particular part of the body. Read more about stem cell therapy.

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Until now stem cells have been widely used for treating various diseases like:

Type 1 diabetes: Researchers have found that stem cells can be converted into insulin producing cells and hence can be used to treat type 1 diabetes. The cells which are cultivated in the lab will have to be implanted into human subjects for them to be mature and fully functional.

Hearing loss: The most common cause of hearing loss is the damage to the inner ear. A study revealed that stem cells of the spiral ganglion (cells found in the inner ear) can be used to restore hearing. Stem cells of spiral ganglions have an innate ability of self renewal and differentiating into different types of cells and these spiral ganglions can be regenerated and differentiated into mature spiral ganglions, nerves and glial cells. Hence, they can be used to design inner neural structure of the ear which can help treat hearing impairments (Read: Scientists design new kind of stem cells for building organs)

Brain tumors: In this breakthrough research, scientists trapped the herpes virus in stem cells and used them to specifically target brain tumors. This experiment significantly improved survival rates in mice with the most common brain tumor in humans, glioblastoma multiforme. Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs) were used as effective drug delivery systems and used to carry the cancer fighting virus. This virus helped debulking the tumour when it passed from the stem cells into tumorous cells. This technique has helped designing new treatment for this cancer.

Heart disease: Researchers have designed a mini heart from stem cells to help return blood flow from veins lacking functional valves. A cuff like organ has been made from cardiac muscle cells which can be implanted over veins to aid blood flow through venous segments. Since this cuff is made from the patient s own cells, it reduces the chances of tissue rejection. (Read: Skin stem cells now to cure obesity)

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