UW researcher makes strides with stem cell technique

UW researcher makes strides with stem cell technique

In what could be called a lab-coat love story, University of Wisconsin-Madison researcher Lance Lian is hoping to find a way to your heart. 

Lian has made strides with a new stem cell technique that could lead to treatment for patients with heart conditions.

“Everyone knows that heart disease is really severe,” said Lian, “and is the leading cause of death all around the world.”

The UW-Madison grad student has made a discovery that would prompt just about any researcher’s pulse to pick up.

“The advances Lance made went beyond what we thought would happen here,” said Sean Palecek, UW-Madison professor of Biological and Chemical Engineering.

Take a look under Lian’s lens, and one will see what are called cardiomyocytes. They’re the building blocks that keep a heart pumping.

“We generated these human cardiomyocytes in vitro, in large quantities,” said Lian.

Using a simple manipulation in human stem cells, Lian has been able to develop massive quantities of these heart muscle cells. The technique promises a uniform, inexpensive batch of cells, to be used by drug companies, and perhaps someday, heart patients themselves.

VIDEO: UW researcher makes strides with stem cell technique

“In the shorter term, these cells give us a way to identify new drugs that can be used in standard treatments,” said Palecek, “In the longer term, perhaps we can make tissues, patches of contracting heart cells that can be directly sewn onto a diseased portion of the heart and help restore function.”

Researchers admit cell-based therapy for these heart cells may be years away. For now, only time will serve as the ultimate test for Lian’s matters of the heart.

“We’re really happy about the results that we have to get here,” said Lian, “But it’s not the end of the story.”

The UW Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering has published its findings and patented its cell development techniques.