From patient to cells, from cells to patient

Hello everyone!

It’s Marilù here and today we are going to explore together the magic world of the stem cells. In the 2012 the two researchers John Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka won the Nobel Prize for the discovery of the human induced pluripotent stem cells. Also known as hiPSC. This revolutionary technique completely changed the research and the medicine of nowadays.

John Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka, 2012 Nobel Laureates in Medicine or Physiology

Our organs are constituted by cells: the heart by cardiomyocytes, the liver by hepatocytes, the skin by fibroblast and so on.. all these cells have a different behaviour and characteristics: the cardiomyocytes need to beat, the hepatocytes to metabolize, the fibroblast to maintain a structure. But all of them have something in common. All of them have the same genetic information, our genetic information. This is possible because, as you can see in the video below (around minute 2) they are all derived by the same embryonic stem cells.

Years ago, Gurdon and Yamanaka asked themselves if a mature and specialized cell could do the reverse pathway. More specifically, the question was:

Can we obtain a stem cell from a cell of our skin?

The answer was HELL YEAH! We can!

Thanks to this discovery now we can obtain stem cells from patients with specific disease, work with them in the lab and differentiate them into different types of cells. And this is basically my contribution for the PersonalizeAF network. I will work with stem cells obtained from a patient with atrial fibrillation and I will differentiate them into cardiomyocytes, the cells of the heart. This will allow me to study the mechanisms of this disease and the response to different drugs. And I will do it without surgically opening any patient.

One of my favourite slide showing a diagram of human induced pluripotent stem cells applications


As you can see from the image, drug screening and disease modelling aren’t the only two applications of these amazing cells. For example, we can also use them to create 3D tissues of the heart and use them as patches to regenerate the heart. This application is something that has been further studied in my previous lab in Germany, at the University of Göttingen. Few weeks ago they started the first clinical study on humans. 

But how can we obtain cardiomyocytes from stem cells?

I’ll explain you in the next blog! Or if I got you interested in knowing more about atrial cardiomyocytes, check out the official Twitter and LinkedIn PersonalizeAF, as well as the hashtag #PersonalizeAF, to learn more about atrial fibrillation and how research is done towards curing it.

Now the cells need a refill 😉