Recently, Israeli researchers led by Prof. Lior Gepstein have succeeded in "transforming human skin cells into heart cells and grafting them on to rat cardiac tissue."
This study, published in the European Heart Journal, consisted of taking "skin cells from heart-failure patients aged 51 and 61." Then three genes were injected into these skin cells to re-programme them as pluripotent stem cells (cells that can produce several types of cells), like embryonic cells. Then, when they were implanted in vitro in the cardiac tissue of patients in good health, the cells differentiated to integrate perfectly with the other cardiac cells. Lastly, when grafted on to a rat’s cardiac tissue, they began to "beat in time with” the rat’s heart.
Prof. Philippe Menasché, a cardiac surgeon at the Georges Pompidou hospital near Paris, says that this study "shows that the reprogramming of skin cells, usually done using the cells from young men, is also possible with those of elderly people."
So in the future it might be possible "to re-implant the cells of a patient […] and thus have a large source [of cardiac muscle cells]." The first clinical trials are due in ten years’ time. However, it will be necessary to "make sure that the manipulated cells do not cause an immunitary or cancerous reaction."