The Next Generation of Biologic Pacemakers? New Discovery in Stem Cells from Fat Creates Another Alternative Treatment

A research team from the University of Houston has found a way to use the stem cells found in fat and “guide” it to become a pacemaker-like cell, according to a new study.

“We are reprogramming the cardiac progenitor cell and guiding it to become a conducting cell of the heart to conduct electrical current,” said study co-author Bradley McConnell, associate professor of pharmacology, in a press release

The team, publishing the study in the Journal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology, worked on converting adipogenic mesenchymal stem cells, which reside within fat cells, into cardia progenitor cells. The ensuing cardiac progenitor cells can be programmed to aid heartbeats as a sinoatrial node (SAN), which is part of the electrical cardiac conduction system.

The researchers used what they called a standard screening strategy to test for reprogramming factors for converting human cardiac progenitor cells into pacemaker-like cells. According to their study results, the authors observed expressions of many pacemaker-specific genes, including CX30.2, KCNN4, HCN4, HCN3, HCN1, and SCN3b. The authors wrote that SHOX2, HCN2, and TBX5 (SHT5) combinations of transcription factors were “much better candidate(s) in driving cardiac progenitor cells into pacemaker-like cells than other combinations and single transcription factors.”

“Results of this study show that the SHT5 combination of transcription factors can reprogram CPCs into Pacemaker-like cells,” they wrote in their conclusion. “SHT5 may be used as a potential stem cell therapy for sick sinus syndrome (SSS) and for other cardiac conduction diseases.”