Shortlisted entries 2011

7. Can adult stem cells ‘provide the muscle’ to repair damaged blood vessels?
People, Dr Lauren Summers

Adult stem cells can potentially treat many life-threatening diseases. I’m researching whether they can help mend blood vessels that are damaged by heart attacks. Adult stem cells are obtained from bone marrow, so avoid the ethical problems that are associated with embryonic stem cells. Blood vessels have an essential layer of smooth muscle cells, enabling them to stretch and withstand blood pressure. I’m investigating what makes stem cells turn into these smooth muscle cells. With this knowledge, we could repair damaged blood vessels without the need for painful and risky surgery by simply injecting stem cells that are pre-programmed to become smooth muscle cells. The picture shows stem cells (red) that have been treated with chemicals to try and make them into smooth muscle cells (green) with each cell nucleus appearing blue. Hopefully, this research will shape the future treatment of heart attack patients, by simply using their own cells!

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