A Technion study published in Nature in January 2011 shows the ability of human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs ) to recreate – in a Petri dish – a cardiac disorder known as long QT syndrome, enabling researchers to model the abnormal cardiac function and to identify potential new therapeutic agents.
Led by Prof. Lior Gepstein of the Rappaport Faculty of Medicine, the research team obtained skin cells from a patient known to have long QT syndrome – a disease which affects the heart’s ability to recharge itself after each heartbeat, causing fainting, seizures and even leading to sudden death. The Technion scientists turned the skin cells into iPSCs and then coaxed these all-purpose stem cells to become cardiac cells.
These newly created beating heart cells showed abnormal electrical activity, mimicking that of the patient’s actual heart, and enabling the scientists to test the efficacy of different drugs on the cells.
While some patients acquire the syndrome after taking certain medications, Gepstein’s patient was a 28-year-old woman with an inherited form of the disorder – type-2 LQTS – caused by a single genetic mutation. In this case, the individual cardiac cells derived from iPSCs demonstrated the same long recharging period and arrhythmia common in the hearts of long QT syndrome patients