Firefly cells could repair damaged hearts

Heart surgery

Research at University of Central Florida are working with glowing "firefly" stem cells that could guide them in repairing damaged hearts without actually cutting into the organ.

Steven Ebert, an associate professor in UCF''s College of Medicine, engineered stem cells with the same enzyme that makes fireflies glow. They glow brighter day-by-day engineered stem cells with the same enzyme that makes fireflies glow.

The glow of the enzyme also means therapies would no longer require cutting into patients' chest cavities to monitor the healing. If doctors can figure out exactly how the cells repair and regenerate cardiac tissue, stem cell therapies could offer hope to millions.

Now that scientists can track the stem cells, Ebert said he hopes to use them in disease models to determine how they heal a damaged heart and what conditions are most suitable for the stems cells to thrive.

The study is published in this month''s highly ranked Stem Cell and Development Journal.

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