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Fetal stem cells help repair damaged mother’s hearts in mice

The recent research by the US scientists lead by Dr Hina Chaudhry from the New York’s Mount Sinai School of Medicine has shown that mice fetuses help their mothers to repair damaged hearts with placenta stem cells. The research results have been published in the journal Circulation Research.

The team labeled males cells with a green fluorescent protein and mated them with normal female mice. Half of their embryos had also fluorescent protein. Then the researchers induced heart attacks in pregnant mice females and two weeks later examined their hearts. As a result, they found fluorescent fetal cells in the damaged heart tissue. These cells turned into different cell types – blood vessel cells, cardiomyocytes, or smooth muscle cells. At the same time, no cells were found in healthy organs. The fetal stem cells demonstrated their ability to give rise to cardiomyocytes in a culture dish, too.

The finding may give a reason why some women who experience heart failure during the pregnancy or shortly after it recover faster than other groups of heart failure patients. It may also shed light why two women suffering heart weakness had in their hearts male fetal cells years after the pregnancy.

The finding is a significant step towards finding ideal stem cell type that can be applied for cardiac regeneration. Use of embryonic stem cells, though showing some potential in treating damaged hearts brings ethical concerns. At the same time, fetal stem cells from placenta that is usually discarded may be a reliable source of stem cells.