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Heart cells

Dutch scientists have found a way to improve the study of heart disease by growing human heart cells on a massive scale (see video).

The findings, published in Nature Biomedical Engineering, will allow research into new drugs for cardiovascular disorders that can be tested on real human cells, thereby reducing the numbers of animals used, commonly mice. Researchers at the Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC), Netherlands, inserted a cancer gene, that can be switched on and off, into human heart muscle cells.

When the gene is switched on, the heart muscle cells lose their specific properties and start to multiply. Then when the gene is turned off the cells stop multiplying and start to behave like heart cells again.

“The use of laboratory animals is socially charged, animal care is expensive and the heart muscle cells of animals behave differently from human heart muscle cells in many respects,” said Twan de Vries, of LUMC.

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