How can we create heart cells in the lab?


Hello everyone,

It’s Marilù Casini here (ESR1) and in my previous blog I explained what stem cells are and what they can do. If you lost the article, I highly recommend checking it out.

This time we are going to talk about science and cells, the heart cells! Are you ready?

As I explained in the previous blog, once we get the stem cells (briefly called hiPSC = human induced pluripotent stem cells), we can modify them obtaining heart cells trough a process called differentiation. How is it possible? How can we change the shape and the function of a cell?

Me working under the hood to check if the cardiomyocytes are nicely beating after the differentiation


Our organs are constituted by cells: the heart by cardiomyocytes, the liver by hepatocytes, the skin by fibroblasts and so on.. all these cells have a different behaviour and characteristics depending on which DNA parts are expressed and, consequently, which proteins are more present inside the cells. In our case, the cardiomyocytes (cells of the heart) express the proteins that led them beat, while the hepatocytes of the liver express proteins that help them to metabolize. In our body cells already know which genes must be expressed.

In the lab we can direct a cell to express one protein instead another using transcription factors, molecules that can bind the DNA and control which genetic part will be expressed. Metaphorically, what they do is reach the DNA of the cells and tell him:

“Hey man, this cell needs to beat otherwise Marilù cannot perform the experiments! Let’s synthesize some channels and myosin chains to allow the cell contracting!”

The transcription factor on the lfet reach the DNA asking him that they need to collaborate to make some protein to develop the cells into cardiomyocytes. The DNA responds positively activating the stransduction process.


This process is called “gene expression” in biochemistry and is comprised of transcription and translation, the “central dogma” of molecular biology which starts from DNA, continue with mRNA and ends with the Protein. In my case, thanks to this amazing path from DNA to protein, after 10 days treating the stem cells with different grow factors, I can obtain the beautiful beating cardiomyocytes that you can watch on the video below.

I hope you liked my blog and you understood something with this very simple and quick explanation, to those who are curious about this process I suggest the following video by “Professor Dave Explains”, a great science communicator!


If I got you interested in knowing more about atrial cardiomyocytes, check out the my Twitter and LinkedIn profile or, evene better, the PersonalizeAF profile! 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