Stem cell researchers at UCLA were able to grow functioning cardiac cells using mouse skin cells that had been reprogrammed into cells with the same unlimited properties as embryonic stem cells.

The finding is the first to show that induced pluripotent stem cells or iPS cells, which don’t involve the use of embryos or eggs, can be differentiated into the three types of cardiovascular cells needed to repair the heart and blood vessels.

The discovery could one day lead to clinical trials of new treatments for people who suffer heart attacks, have atherosclerosis or are in heart failure, said Dr. Robb MacLellan, a researcher at the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research and senior author of the study. Researchers also were able to differentiate the iPS cells into several types of blood cells, which may one day aid in treating blood diseases and in bone marrow transplantation.

“I believe iPS cells address many of the shortcomings of human embryonic stem cells and are the future of regenerative medicine,” said MacLellan, an associate professor of cardiology and physiology. “I’m hoping that these scientific findings are the first step towards one day developing new therapies that I can offer my patients. There are still many limitations with using iPS cells in clinical studies that we must overcome,overcome, but there are scientists in labs across the country working to address these issues right now.”