Derivation of many different cell types from human pluripotent stem cells (embryonic stem cells or HESCs and induced pluripotent stem cells or hiPS cells) is an area of growing interest both for potential cell therapy and as a platform for drug discovery and toxicity. Most particularly, the recent availability of methods to introduce specific disease mutations into human pluripotent stem cells and/or to derive these cells as hiPS cells by reprogramming from any patient of choice, are creating unprecedented opportunities to create disease models “in a dish” and study ways to treat it or slow down its rate of development. Understanding the underlying developmental mechanisms that control differentiation of pluripotent cells to their derivatives and mimicking these in defined culture conditions in vitro is now essential for moving the field forward. We have used these methods to produce isogenic pairs of hiPSC lines to compare diseased and corresponding control cardiomyocytes and vascular endothelial cells and identify disease related phenotypes and mechanisms. The use of isogenic pairs has proved crucial since variability between “healthy control” hiPSC lines is often greater than the difference between a diseased cells and its isogenic control. We have also examined drug responses of hESC-derived cardiomyocytes to a variety of cardiac and non-cardiac drugs and shown that iPSC derived cardiomyocytes with mutations in ion channel genes can accurately predict changes in cardiac electrical properties and reveal drug sensitivities also observed in patients. Similar studies will be described using vascular endothelial cells from hPSC. Relevant in all cases is the development of appropriate bioassays in which to measure disease phenotypes which may be highly cell type specific dependent. For heart cells, this might be electrical activity or contractions force; for vascular cells, responses to fluid flow flow and inflammation. Various approaches to this will be presented.
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