Most patients with an inherited heart condition known as arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia/cardiomyopathy (ARVD/C) don’t know they have a problem until they’re in their early 20s. The lack of symptoms at younger ages makes it very difficult for researchers to study how ARVD/C evolves or to develop treatments.
A new stem cell-based technology created by 2012 Nobel Prize winner Shinya Yamanaka, M.D., Ph.D., helps solve this problem. With this technology, researchers can generate heart muscle cells from a patient’s own skin cells. However, these newly made heart cells are mostly immature. That raises questions about whether or not they can be used to mimic a disease that occurs in adulthood.
In a paper published January 27 in Nature, researchers unveil the first maturation-based “disease in a dish” model for ARVD/C. The model was created using Yamanaka’s technology and a new method to mimic maturity by making the cells’ metabolism more like that in adult hearts. For that reason, this model is likely more relevant to human ARVD/C than other models and therefore better suited for studying the disease and testing new treatments.