Could stem cells be used to fix a broken heart?

Stem cells have been demonstrated as being effective in treating cardiovascular tissue in presentations at the third annual Cardiovascular Tissue Engineering Symposium at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (AL, USA).

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May 15, 2017
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Stem cells have been utilized to treat cardiovascular disease in a number of studies presented at the third annual Cardiovascular Tissue Engineering Symposium at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (AL, USA). The entire symposium will be summarized in a paper that is set to be published in Circulation Research.

Cardiac progenitor cells that can contribute to growth or repair of damaged hearts were discovered in 2003, so the progress that has been made in this field is very promising. In research presented by Bjorn Knollman, symposium presenter and professor of medicine and pharmacology (Vanderbilt University; TN, USA), researchers were able to eliminate the differences between induced pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes and normal adult cardiomyocytes. In the presentation, Knollman described the steps, such as culturing the derived cardiomyocytes in a Matrigel mattress and treating them with hormones for 14 days, that led to derived cardiomyocytes with greatly improved cell volume, morphology and function.

Nenad Bursac, professor of biomedical engineering, Duke University (NC, USA), presented his advances in engineering vascularized heart tissue for repair after a heart attack. Bursac explained that a better understanding of how to grow the tissue from heart tissue progenitor cells has allowed formation of mature "giga" patches up to 4 centimeters square. These patches have had good propagation of heartbeat contractions and spontaneous formation of capillaries from derived-vascular endothelial and smooth muscle cells, and are being tested in pigs.

A further example of stem cells being utilized to treat cardiac tissue was presented by professor of thoracic and cardiovascular surgery Phillippe Menasche (Paris Descartes University, Paris, France). Menasche discussed his initial safety study into implanting engineered heart tissue derived from embryonic stem cell-derived cardiac cells into the hearts of six heart attack patients in France.

"We are creating a new community of engineer-scientists“, commented symposium chair Jay Zhang (chair and professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Alabama at Birmingham).

Sources: Kannappan R, Zhang J. Meeting Report for NIH 2016 Progenitor Cell Biology Consortium Cardiovascular Tissue Engineering 2016. Circ. Res. 119 (9), 981-983 (2016); https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/05/170506110757.htm

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Go to the profile of Robert Matheny
Robert Matheny about 2 months ago

Why do we keep trying the same thing that doesn't work? One of the scientist in this article has stated, "stem cell therapy for heart disease is dead."

The adult heart and ECM very poorly support proliferation, migration, or differentiation of progenitor cells. This is different from the fetal and neonatal heart. The differences in the make-up of the environmental cues in those vertebrates that do regenerate their heart muscle is very different from the adult mammal.

Regenerating the heart is not about discovering the "right" cell, it is not about the number of cells, it's not even about maintaining them in the myocardium (which is hard enough), it IS about the local cardiac environment. The small effect of transplanted stem cells is transient paracrine effects.

This is very well supported in the literature and to exact a cure for this terrible disease efforts need to be refocused away from isolated stem cell therapy and towards remaking the cardiac environment. The key to re-generation lies in reproducing nascent generation.

Go to the profile of Freya Leask
Freya Leask about 2 months ago

Thank you for your thoughts, Robert; does anyone else agree or disagree?