Researchers study alternatives to bone marrow-derived stem cells for post-heart attack tissue repair
Stem cell-based therapy is emerging as a promising modality to rejuvenate a dying heart after heart failure, a leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Largely, clinical trials have used bone marrow-derived stem cells to improve the cardiac performance in ailing hearts. Unfortunately, bone marrow-derived stem cells could not help patients with this devastating disease except for very minor temporary improvements, which generally go away with the time.
Recently Fernandes and Chong et al. have compared the regenerative potential of human embryonic stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes or cardiovascular progenitors versus human bone marrow-derived cells to repair heart attack tissue in a rat model . They found that both cardiomyocytes and progenitor cells have better regeneration potential than bone marrow-derived stem cells. Scientists noticed that human embryonic stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes did not greatly improve heart function despite their considerable ability to differentiate. On the other hand, more mature and stable heart muscle cells appear a more potent choice for future regenerative medicine, and they may well exceed the efficacy of bone marrow-derived cells in clinical studies. Also, cardiomyocytes are more definitive cell types, which diminish the risk of tumor formation, as compared to human embryonic stem-cell derived cardiomyocytes. However, both cell types are far superior to bone marrow-derived cells and may prove to be fruitful in human trials.
Around ten animals were assigned in each group, including a control group where animals were injected with a non-therapeutic cell population. Treatment began 4 days after heart attacks had occurred in the rats. The experiments involved injecting the cells in the walls of the heart and measuring how well heart muscle tissue contracted in a follow up test four weeks later. Scientists have already successfully regenerated the hearts of monkeys using a similar approach of transplanting embryonic stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes. Their next approach is to find out whether these large animal experiments show similar improvements in cardiac function, and if so, to begin testing these cells in human patients. Recent encouraging findings made the researchers believe that use of heart muscle cells (cardiomyocytes) or progenitor cells could be a better option to revive dying heart muscle and blood vessels.
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 Fernandes and Chong et al. Comparison of Human Embryonic Stem Cell-Derived Cardiomyocytes, Cardiovascular Progenitors, and Bone Marrow Mononuclear Cells for Cardiac Repair. Stem Cell Reports, October 2015 DOI: 10.1016/j.stemcr.2015.09.011