Cells snag top modelling job

Cells snag top modelling job

Nature | January 17, 2011 | By Ewen Callaway

Heart disorder joins growing list of conditions getting the ‘disease in a dish’ treatment.

When an unconscious 28-year-old woman with a rare heart disorder was rushed to hospital, surgeons saved her life by implanting a defibrillator. In time, a sample of her cells, alive and beating in a dish, could help to save other lives.

This is the hope for patient-specific models of disease, which can be created by reprogramming the patient’s cells in the lab into an undifferentiated stem-cell state and then converting them into the specialized cell types affected by the condition. A handful of such models have been created so far for diseases ranging from diabetes to rare neurodegenerative diseases (see Table 1), with many more expected soon. Pharmaceutical companies are beginning to use these cells to identify effective drug treatments and to predict side effects that may only appear in a small subset of patients.

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