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Reprogrammed Cells Grow Into New Blood Vessels, Study Finds

Update Date: Nov 08, 2014 08:09 PM EST

Researchers have discovered a new way to repair damaged tissue by transforming human scar cells into blood vessel cells, according to a new study. 

Researchers observed that fibroblasts - cells that causes scarring and are abundant throughout the human body - can be coaxed into becoming endothelium -an entirely different type of adult cell that forms the lining of blood vessels.  

"To our knowledge, this is the first time that trans-differentiation to a therapeutic cell type has been accomplished with a small molecules and proteins," said Houston Methodist Research Institute Department of Cardiovascular Sciences Chair John Cooke, M.D., Ph.D., the study's principal investigator, in the press release. "In this particular case, we've found a way to turn fibroblasts into 'shapeshifters' nearly on command."

Cooke added that the regenerative medicine approach provides proof-of-concept for a small molecule therapy that could one day be used to improve the healing of cardiovascular damage or other injuries.

"There are problems with using viruses to transfer genes into cells," Cooke said. "This gene therapy approach is more complicated, and using viral vectors means the possibility of causing damage to the patient's chromosomes. We believe a small-molecule approach to transforming the cells will be far more feasible and safer for clinical therapies."

The method is described in an upcoming issue of Circulation

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