Injection of cardiac stem cells may serve as a therapeutic to reverse the heart damage caused by Duchenne muscular dystrophy
Stem cells have been known to rejuvenate dying tissue or organs, and they’ve already been used to re-grow tissue in hearts. In one of our previous blogs, we have mentioned possible roles of stem cells in cardiac regeneration. Recently, researchers at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute have found that delivering cardiac stem cells into impaired hearts may repair the heart damage caused by Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), leading to longer life expectancy in patients.
DMD is a group of diseases where the musculoskeletal system deteriorates, resulting in the death of the muscle cells and tissue. Most DMD patients will develop symptoms by the age of 12, although, some forms of DMD appear in infancy. Cardiac dysfunction leading to heart attacks is the most common cause of the death in this disease. The deficiency of the vital protein known as dystrophin leads to the cardiomyopathy, a weakness of the heart muscle that makes the heart unable to adequately pump blood and maintain rhythm. There is no known cure for DMD. Treatment only aims to control symptoms and improve quality of life. However, in the past stem cell therapy has shown some hope like other degenerative disorders. In a study published in Lancet in 2009 by Marban and coworkers, the researchers exploited the patient’s own heart tissue to grow specialized cardiac stem cells. Upon receiving these specialized cardiac stem cells, patients have demonstrated a regenerative repair response by regrowth of the heart muscle. Recently, the Institute opened the nation's first Regenerative Medicine Clinic, designed to match heart and vascular disease patients with appropriate stem cell clinical trials being conducted at Cedars-Sinai and other institutions.
In the new study, Cedars-Sinai researchers administered cardiac stem cells into 78 lab mice, and over the next three months the mice demonstrated improved heart functions. The experimenters also discovered that the stem cells work in an indirect fashion by secreting tiny fat droplets called exosomes. The exosomes, when they are purified and administered alone, are able reproduce the chief benefits of the cardiac stem cells. Studies in animals have been promising and could be ready for testing in human clinical studies very soon next year.