Heart Disease

Alan Trounson is President of CIRM

Since I arrived at CIRM late in 2007 I have maintained a tradition of presenting some of the top science journal papers from the previous month or two at each of our Board meetings. Beginning last month, I decided this would be easier to digest in a written document than in PowerPoint slides amid a harried board meeting. You can see an archive of these periodic stem cell reports on our website.

We've long claimed that one ideal role for iPS cells is modeling disease and screening drugs. In fact, we're so committed to that idea we produced a video about it with CIRM grantee Bruce Conklin at the Gladstone Institutes. Scientific American also has a story on disease model their March issue, available online.

Researchers at the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease have identified two molecules, called microRNAs, that push early heart cells to mature into the smooth muscle cells that line blood vessels. These same molecules also control when those smooth muscle cells divide to repair damage or in diseases such as cancer or atherosclerosis, which both involve unhealthy blood vessel growth. The two microRNAs, miR-145 and miR-143, are abundant in the primitive heart cells of prenatal mice, leading those cells to differentiate into various mature heart and aorta cells.