A*STAR scholar helped grow muscle cells from skin cells

PHOTO: A*STAR scholar helped grow muscle cells from skin cells

A*STAR scholar Ms Christine Cheung is part of a Cambridge team who discovered a way of generating different types of vascular smooth muscle cells using patients' skin cells.

This discovery may lead to new treatments and better screening for cardiovascular disease, which accounts for one in three deaths each year in Singapore.

Growing new blood vessels to bypass blocked vessels of those suffering from the hardening and blockage of bloods vessels due to fatty materials may now be a new option.

The team from the University of Cambridge worked with embryonic stem cells and reprogrammed skin cells and found that they could create major vascular smooth muscle cells in high purity using human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs).

Dr Alan Colman, Principle Investigator of the Institute of Medical Biology under A*STAR and Executive Director of the Singapore Stem Cell Consortium, said the study was a major advance in vascular disease modelling using patient-derived stem cells.

"The development of robust methods to make multiple, distinct smooth muscle subtypes provides tools for scientists to model and understand a greater range of vascular diseases in a culture dish than was previously available.

"It is a significant stride forward in being able to construct new blood vessels which will benefit a whole range of patients including those with cardiovascular diseases, renal failure and genetic disorders such as Marfans Syndrome that affect the normal function of their blood vessels," he said.

Dr Lim Khiang Wee, Executive Director of the A*STAR Graduate Academy (A*GA), said Ms Cheung's work reflects the calibre of their scholars.

"They do excellent research and grow into scientists who will contribute to Singapore when they return," he said.

Ms Christine Cheung is a National Science Scholarship (NSS) scholar and is doing her final year PhD studies at Cambridge University (UK).