Induction of cardiogenesis in pluripotent cells via chromatin remodeling factors

Induction of cardiogenesis in pluripotent cells via chromatin remodeling factors

Funding Type: 
New Faculty II
Grant Number: 
RN2-00903
Approved funds: 
$2,815,309
Disease Focus: 
Heart Disease
Stem Cell Use: 
Embryonic Stem Cell
iPS Cell
Public Abstract: 
Heart disease is one of the biggest killers in the civilized world, and as populations age, this trend will increase dramatically. Currently the only way to treat failing hearts is with expensive and relatively ineffective drugs, or by heart transplantation. Ideally, we would like to be able to regenerate sick or dead heart tissue. The best strategy would be to make new heart cells that match the patients' cells (to avoid rejection), and inject them into diseased heart so that they could regenerate the sick heart.Unfortunately, current strategies that are planned to do so are ineffectual. We wish to attempt to generate heart cells from human embryonic stem cells, or skin-derived "induced pluripotent cells" by "reprogramming" the stem cells into heart cells. This would be accomplished by turning on heart genes that normally are off in stem cells and seeing if this turns stem cells into heart cells. If this approach is successful, these newly generated stem cells could be used for regenerative therapies in the future.
Statement of Benefit to California: 
Heart disease is the leading killer of adults in the Western world. Hundreds of thousands of people in the US die of heart failure of sudden cardiac death each year. Largely, this is because inadequate therapies exist for the repair or treatment of the diseased heart. Our goal is to develop a means to efficiently convert pluripotent stem cells, including induced pluripotent cells (iPS cells) into new heart cells that could be used therapeutically to help regenerate healthy heart tissue. The results of our studies will help develop new technology that is likely to contribute to the California biotechnology industry. Our studies will develop technologies that can be used by biotechnology companies and researchers who wish to develop regenerative medicine therapies in a clinical setting. We are working closely with California companies to develop new microscopes, assay devices, and analytical software that could be the basis for new product lines or new businesses. If therapies do come to fruition, we anticipate that California medical centers will be leading the way. The most important contribution of this study will be to improve the health of Californians. Heart disease is a major cause of mortality and morbidity, resulting in billions of dollars in health care costs and lost days at work. Our goal is to contribute research that would ultimately improve the quality of life and increase productivity for millions of people who suffer from heart disease.
Progress Report: 

Year 1

We hypothesized that human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) or induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells, which are derived from skin or other adult cells) can be efficiently reprogrammed to become heart cells using a combination of factors that includes proteins that unwind DNA. To test this hypothesis, we proposed three specific aims. For each we have achieved significant progress. In progress toward our first aim, we have been able to enhance cardiac differentiation of mouse iPS cells by 20%, and have devised strategies to increase this success rate. Our second aim was directed at understanding how important the chromatin remodeling factor, Baf60c, was in the induction of heart cells from pluripotent cells. We have made significant progress in this regard, mostly in developing the complex genetic tools required to investigate this important question. The third aim was to understand how Baf60c and its collaborating factors work to enhance heart cell formation. Again, we have had considerable success in early experiments that indicate that we will be able to address these questions fully in the remaining years of the granting period. Overall, our first year of funding has allowed us to move rapidly forward in understanding how to propel a stem cell toward becoming a heart cell; these results will be important to understand how heart cells are made in the body, and how their genesis can be harnessed using the power of stem cells.

Year 2

We have been studying ways to understand how heart cells form from stem cells, and how we could help make the process more efficient, to generate new heart cells for patients with damaged hearts due to heart attacks. We have focused on the finding that cellular machines that unwind DNA from chromosomes, so-called chromatin remodeling factors, are important for turning on heart genes. To date we have been generating the important biological tools required for these studies. These include stem cells in which some of these chromatin genes have been inactivated, as well as DNA constructions that will be inserted into embryonic stem cells to attempt to induce them to become heart cells. In parallel we have been working towards using these factors to transform other types of cells, such as skin cells, into cardiomyocytes; in collaboration with our colleagues we have made significant progress towards this goal, and are now investigating the importance of the chromatin remodeling complexes in this process. Our progress has been excellent, and we are confident that we are making great strides towards regenerative medicine in the context of heart disease.

Year 3

We have been studying ways to understand how heart cells form from stem cells, and how we could help make the process more efficient, to generate new heart cells for patients with damaged hearts due to heart attacks. We have focused on the finding that cellular machines that unwind DNA from chromosomes, so-called chromatin remodeling factors, are important for turning on heart genes. To date we have been generating the important biological tools required for these studies. These include stem cells in which some of these chromatin genes have been inactivated, as well as DNA constructions that will be inserted into embryonic stem cells to attempt to induce them to become heart cells. In parallel we have been working towards using these factors to transform other types of cells, such as skin cells, into cardiomyocytes; in collaboration with our colleagues we have made significant progress towards this goal, and are now investigating the importance of the chromatin remodeling complexes in this process. Our progress has been excellent, and we are confident that we are making great strides towards regenerative medicine in the context of heart disease.

Year 4

In the last year, we have made significant progress on this project, which aims to understand how heart cells can be produced from pluripotent cells. We have been able to understand the gene program that is controlled by a so-called chromatin remodeling protein, a protein that unwinds DNA to allow genes to be turned on. This protein, called Baf60c, turns on many of the genes that give a heart cell its basic functions, like beating. We have also created stem cell -based tools that will allow us in the final year of this project to identify the partner proteins that allow Baf60c to function, and where in our genome Baf60c turns genes on.

Year 5

During the tenure of this award, we have made some exciting discoveries about how genes are regulated during the process of heart cell formation from embryonic stem cells. In particular, we focused our efforts on a group of proteins that regulate other genes using a process called chromatin remodeling. We discovered that one such chromatin remodeling protein is required for genes that are specific to the heart to be turned on in heart cells. We also discovered new proteins that are also important for the formation of the heart. In studying these chromatin remodeling proteins in an embryonic stem cell system, we identified how these proteins turn on the "right" set of genes in the earliest stages of commitment of stem cells to heart cell progenitors. Finally, we identified the nature of the group of proteins that work together as part of chromatin remodeling "complexes", which for the first time tells us how these proteins assemble together to regulate heart genes. These results have paved the way for studies aimed at creating new heart cells, and have opened up some exciting new possibilities to improve this process.

© 2013 California Institute for Regenerative Medicine