Researchers transform stem cells found in human fat into smooth muscle cells

July 24, 2006

Researchers from the David Geffen School of Medicine and the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science at UCLA today announced they have transformed adult stem cells taken from human adipose – or fat tissue – into smooth muscle cells, which help the normal function of a multitude of organs like the intestine, bladder and arteries. The study may help lead to the use of fat stem cells for smooth muscle tissue engineering and repair.

Reported in the July 24 online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study is one of the first to show that stem cells derived from adipose tissue can be changed to acquire the physical and biochemical characteristics as well as the functionality of smooth muscle cells.

Smooth muscle cells are found within the human body in the walls of hollow organs like blood vessels, bladder, and intestines and contract and expand to help transport blood, urine, and waste through the body's systems.

"Fat tissue may prove a reliable source of smooth muscle cells that we can use to regenerate and repair damaged organs," said Dr. Larissa V. Rodriguez, principal investigator and assistant professor, Department of Urology, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

Rodriguez and her team first cultured the adipose-derived stem cells in a growth factor cocktail that encouraged the cells to transform into smooth muscle cells. Researchers observed the genetic expression and development of proteins, which are specific to this type of cell. So it looked like a smooth muscle cell, but would it act like one?

The next step required testing functionality to see if the cells would expand and contract like smooth muscle tissue. Rodriguez turned to associate professor of bioengineering Dr. Benjamin Wu at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science for help.

Wu's team developed a special device to evaluate the cells' ability to contract by tracking movement of microbeads dispersed in a collagen gel embedded with the cells. Researchers added different pharmacologic agents known to cause contraction or relaxation in smooth muscle.

"We found that the cells did indeed function just like smooth muscle," said Wu. "The new device allowed us to evaluate drug-induced changes in the physical properties of smooth muscle at the cell level – previously we've needed tissue samples to observe this phenomena."

To make sure they could reproduce the smooth muscle cells and to confirm the transformation, Rodriguez and her team cloned one of the primitive stem cells from the adipose tissue and repeated the experiments on a cloned population of cells with similar results.

"We wanted to make sure it wasn't an isolated case or particular conditions in the cell cultures that allowed us to create or select out already existing smooth muscle cells," said Rodriguez, also a member of the UCLA Stem Cell Institute. "We are surprised and pleased with the results and are excited about future applications."

Rodriguez notes the many advantages of using a patient's own fat stem cells for organ re-growth and tissue regeneration, including no need for anti-rejection medications. In patients with a diseased or absent organ, who cannot use their own organ tissue for regeneration, adipose stem cells offer an alternative.

Smooth muscle cells have also been produced from stem cells found in the brain and bone marrow, but acquiring stem cells from adipose tissue is much easier and most patients have adipose tissue readily available, according to Rodriguez.

The next step, she adds, involves identifying and developing the growth factors that will induce transformation of cells more quickly. She is also starting to use smooth muscle cells for tissue engineering in the urinary tract, including the urethra.

Source: University of California - Los Angeles

Explore further: Study reveals how MRSA infection compromises lymphatic function

Related Stories

Study reveals how MRSA infection compromises lymphatic function

January 17, 2018
Infections of the skin or other soft tissues with the hard-to-treat MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) bacteria appear to permanently compromise the lymphatic system, which is crucial to immune system function. ...

New therapeutic approach for advanced lung disease

January 15, 2018
Researchers have demonstrated the potential of a new class of drugs for the treatment of refractory chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Incurable to date, the disease is one of the most frequent causes of death ...

Heart-muscle patches made with human cells improve heart attack recovery

January 10, 2018
Large, human cardiac-muscle patches created in the lab have been tested, for the first time, on large animals in a heart attack model. This clinically relevant approach showed that the patches significantly improved recovery ...

New hope for stopping an understudied heart disease in its tracks

December 25, 2017
The diminutive size of our aortic valve—just shy of a quarter—belies its essential role in pushing oxygen-rich blood from the heart into the aorta, our body's largest vessel, and from there to all other organs. Yet for ...

High doses of vitamin D rapidly reduce arterial stiffness

January 2, 2018
In just four months, high-doses of vitamin D reduce arterial stiffness in young, overweight/obese, vitamin-deficient, but otherwise still healthy African-Americans, researchers say.

Beating heart patch is large enough to repair the human heart

November 28, 2017
Biomedical engineers at Duke University have created a fully functioning artificial human heart muscle large enough to patch over damage typically seen in patients who have suffered a heart attack. The advance takes a major ...

Recommended for you

Intensive behavior therapy no better than conventional support in treating teenagers with antisocial behavior

January 19, 2018
Research led by UCL has found that intensive and costly multisystemic therapy is no better than conventional therapy in treating teenagers with moderate to severe antisocial behaviour.

Researchers illustrate how muscle growth inhibitor is activated, could aid in treating ALS

January 19, 2018
Researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine are part of an international team that has identified how the inactive or latent form of GDF8, a signaling protein also known as myostatin responsible for ...

Creation of synthetic horsepox virus could lead to more effective smallpox vaccine

January 19, 2018
UAlberta researchers created a new synthetic virus that could lead to the development of a more effective vaccine against smallpox. The discovery demonstrates how techniques based on the use of synthetic DNA can be used to ...

Novel genomic tools provide new insight into human immune system

January 19, 2018
When the body is under attack from pathogens, the immune system marshals a diverse collection of immune cells to work together in a tightly orchestrated process and defend the host against the intruders. For many decades, ...

Investigators eye new target for treating movement disorders

January 19, 2018
Blocking a nerve-cell receptor in part of the brain that coordinates movement could improve the treatment of Parkinson's disease, dyskinesia and other movement disorders, researchers at Vanderbilt University have reported.

Rocky start for Alzheimer's drug research in 2018

January 19, 2018
The year 2018, barely underway, has already dealt a series of disheartening blows to the quest for an Alzheimer's cure.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.