Cardiac cells generated from stem cells using carbon nanotubes
19 September 2012
The electrical stimulation of carbon nanotubes can direct stem
cells to form cardiac cells. The technique could give the ability to
repair damaged heart muscle, which normally has little repair capacity.
The breakthrough has been led by a team of scientists at the
Regenerative Medicine Institute (REMEDI) at the National University
of Ireland Galway in conjunction with Trinity College Dublin.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in Ireland. Once
damaged by heart attack, cardiac muscle has very little capacity for
self-repair and at present there are no clinical treatments
available to repair damaged cardiac muscle tissue.
Over the last 10 years, there has been tremendous interest in
developing a cell-based therapy to address this problem. Since the
use of a patient’s own heart cells is not a viable clinical option,
many researchers are working to try to find an alternative source of
cells that could be used for cardiac tissue repair.
REMEDI researchers Dr Valerie Barron and Dr Mary Murphy have
brought together a multi-disciplinary team of Irish materials
scientists, physicists and biologists from REMEDI at National
University of Ireland Galway and Trinity College Dublin to address
The researchers recognised that carbon nanotubes, a widely used
nanoparticle, is reactive to electrical stimulation. They then used
these nanomaterials to create cells with the characteristics of
cardiac progenitors, a special type of cell found in the heart, from
adult stem cells.
“The electrical properties of the nanomaterial triggered a
response in the mesenchymal (adult) stem cells, which we sourced
from human bone marrow. In effect, they became electrified, which
made them morph into more cardiac-like cells”, explains Valerie
Barron of REMEDI at National University of Ireland Galway.
“This is a totally new approach and provides a ready-source of
tailored cells, which have the potential to be used as a new
clinical therapy. Excitingly, this symbiotic strategy lays the
foundation stone for other electroactive tissue repair applications,
and can be readily exploited for other clinically challenging areas
such as in the brain and the spinal cord.”
This work has recently been published in two leading scientific
journals, Biomaterials and Macromolecular Bioscience, and was
carried out in collaboration with Professor Werner Blau,
Investigator in CRANN and the School of Physics, Trinity College
“It is great to see two decades of our pioneering nanocarbon
research here at TCD come to fruition in a way that addresses a
major global health problem. Hopefully many people around the world
will ultimately benefit from it. Some of our carbon nanotube
research has been patented by TCD and is being licensed to
international companies in material science, electronics and health
care,” said Professor Blau.
Mooney E, Mackle JN, Blond DJ, O'Cearbhaill E, Shaw G, Blau
WJ, Barry FP, Barron V, Murphy JM. The electrical stimulation of
carbon nanotubes to provide a cardiomimetic cue to MSCs.
Biomaterials. 2012 Sep;33(26):6132-9. Epub 2012 Jun 6.
Mackle JN, Blond DJ, Mooney E, McDonnell C, Blau WJ, Shaw G,
Barry FP, Murphy JM, Barron V. In vitro characterization of an
electroactive carbon-nanotube-based nanofiber scaffold for tissue
engineering. Macromol Biosci. 2011 Sep 9;11(9):1272-82. doi:
10.1002/mabi.201100029. Epub 2011 Jul 4.