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Stem Cells Working on Matters of the Heart

Apr 9, 2019 10:06:00 AM / by Stacy Matthews Branch, DVM, PhD

Paper heart cut in half and sewn back together on light background_AdobeStock_191104330-1After suffering from a heart attack, patients may eventually have a treatment option which uses their own stem cells to repair and restore heart muscle tissue.

According to the Centers for Disease control, over 600,000 people in the U.S. die yearly from heart disease, and 735,000 Americans have a heart attack each year. Acute myocardial infarction (heart attack) occurs when blood flow to the heart muscle is blocked leading to damage to the heart muscle tissue.  The heart tries to heal after an infarction, but this involves the formation of scar tissue that does not restore adequate function to the heart. The advancement of regenerative medicine using adult stem cells for cardiac tissue repair has the potential to provide a means to repair heart tissue in a way that returns full heart muscle cell function.

Stem cells can self-renew and develop into many types of differentiated cells. Embryonic stem cells are pluripotent because they can give rise to any cell type in the body. Adult stem cells also exhibit self-renewal and differentiation; however, they are limited to differentiating into cell types of their tissue of origin. In 2006, Shinya Yamanaka’s research team showed that adult stem cells could be induced to generate pluripotent stem cells with the capacity to develop into any cell type.

Recently, scientists from the University of Würzburg successfully grew functioning cardiomyocytes from a specific population of stem cells found in vascular walls. These specific CD34 stem cells are Flk1+CD34+ cells from the vascular adventitia, the connective tissue that surrounds an artery. Without genetic manipulation, the researchers were able to generate beating and functioning cardiomyocytes from CD34 stems cells harvested from mouse aortic walls. The cultured stem cells were tested in vivo by labelling and injecting them into chick embryo hearts. These cells were found to differentiate into cardiomyocytes and naturally became part of the chick embryonic heart muscle.

Most importantly, myocardial infarction leads to the migration of Flk1+CD34+cells from the coronary vessel adventitia into surrounding myocardial tissue. The capacity of these CD34 stem cell subtypes to develop into a cardiomyocyte phenotype indicates their potential to serve as sources for cardiac muscle repair and regeneration. These new findings can lead to regenerative medicine methods using a patient’s own cells to repair infarcted muscle tissue without scarring and restore myocardial function.

HemaCare offers human primary cells and tissues for your research needs.

Topics: Cardiovascular Disease, heart disease, Stem Cells

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