May 10, 2013

Profiling heart cells

A “profile” of the genes and regulatory networks that govern early heart valve development lay the groundwork for generating valves from a patient’s own cells.


A team of Vanderbilt and Harvard investigators has “profiled” developing cells in the heart – to discover which genes and regulatory networks govern early heart valve development. The information is necessary for generating heart valves from a patient’s own cells, a goal of the tissue engineering consortium, SysCODE.

Joey Barnett, Ph.D., Scott Baldwin, M.D., and colleagues compared gene expression in three heart regions from developing mouse and chick – two regions undergoing an epithelial-to-mesenchymal transformation (EMT) to become valve-forming cells, and one region not undergoing EMT. The analysis revealed a set of genes and regulatory networks enriched during EMT, including known regulators of the process and novel participants. Further analysis of some of the novel genes confirmed their expression in the developing heart in vivo and validated their functional roles in an in vitro EMT assay.

The findings, reported in the Journal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology, lay the groundwork for understanding, assessing and driving the maturation of early valve progenitor cells – a prelude to new therapies for valve disease.

This study was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health supporting the Systems-based Consortium for Organ Design and Engineering (HL092551) and the Cardiac Development Consortium (HL098166).