Technology to mass-produce cardiac muscle cells from induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, which could have major implications for regenerative medicine, has been developed by a team of researchers primarily from Keio University.

“The achievement is a huge step toward clinical research,” said Keiichi Fukuda, a cardiovascular medicine professor at the university. “It could also lead to the commercialization of regenerative medicine.”

The university plans to start a clinical study next fiscal year, arguing preparations have been completed to transplant iPS-derived tissue into severe heart failure patients who have lost a large amount of cardiac muscle cells.

The team’s findings were published in the U.S. scientific journal Stem Cell Reports on Oct. 6.

Severe heart failure associated with myocardial infarction and dilated cardiomyopathy causes patients to lose hundreds of millions of cardiac muscle cells that move their hearts.

Fukuda and his colleagues were involved in the development of techniques to create cardiac muscle cells from iPS cells, but they had difficulty developing a method to produce a large volume of cardiac muscle cells needed to revive heart function.

To address the problem, the team piled 10 layers of iPS cell culture plates, each measuring 20 centimeters by 30 cm, and made a device to supply oxygen and carbon dioxide evenly to the plates.

With the system, the scientists succeeded in producing 1 billion cardiac muscle cells, enough to deal with several heart failure patients, at one time by having iPS cells differentiate inside the plates.

Under existing techniques, more than 100 conventional culture dishes with a diameter of 10 cm each are necessary to make the same amount of cardiac muscle cells, while it is difficult to maintain the consistent quality of the created cells.

In the planned clinical study, the researchers will inject cardiac muscle cells into patients’ hearts so the created cells can take root to improve their ability to send blood to the body.