May 19, 2024

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Stem cell therapy regenerates damaged heart cells and improves function

Stem cell therapy regenerates damaged heart cells and improves function


Stem cell therapy regenerates damaged heart cells and improves function.

Researchers transplanted precursor stem cells into damaged heart muscle in pigs to repair damaged cells and improve heart function.

The research could lead to a treatment that could regenerate heart muscle damaged by lack of oxygen.

Cardiac ischemia occurs when the heart muscle is starved of oxygen. If prolonged, ischemia can lead to irreversible damage and heart failure, affecting the heart’s ability to pump blood effectively.


The most common cause of heart ischemia is atherosclerosis, the buildup of plaque in the arteries. If an artery is completely blocked by plaque, a heart attack or myocardial infarction can result.


Previous studies have investigated ways to reverse myocardial damage caused by ischemia, including transplanting human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs), which are immature cells that can renew themselves by dividing and differentiating into the main population of cells that make up the body . They can be used to create any cell or tissue desired.


In a preclinical trial, researchers at the Duke National University of Singapore (Duke-NUS) School of Medicine grew laboratory-made hPSCs and allowed them to differentiate into precursor cardiomyocytes called cardiac progenitor cells.

Key to the process is the researchers’ use of laminin, a protein that directs the development of certain tissue cell types. Here, the researchers grew progenitor cells on a type of laminin found in the heart.


Approximately 200 million 11-day-old progenitor cells were injected into injured porcine myocardium. They were seen to organize rapidly in damaged tissue, producing cardiac muscle grafts that continued to mature.


“As early as 4 weeks after injection, there was rapid engraftment, meaning the body was accepting the transplanted stem cells,” said Lynn Yap, lead author of the study. “We also observed increased growth and functional development of new heart tissue, suggesting that our protocol has the potential to be developed as an effective and safe means of cell therapy.”


The researchers also found a significant improvement in the heart’s pumping ability and a reduction in the area of ​​muscle death caused by ischemia.


Stem cell therapy regenerates damaged heart cells and improves function



Electrodissection of a porcine heart before (left) and after (right) transplantation of precursor stem cells. Purple areas represent healthy tissue, while other colored areas represent injured tissue.


Previous studies transplanted heart muscle cells that had already started beating, which led to fatal arrhythmias. In the current study, the researchers used non-beating cells that matured and started beating after transplantation. Using non-beating heart cells cut the incidence of arrhythmias in half.

When arrhythmias occur, they are temporary and resolve on their own in about 30 days. In addition, the transplanted cells did not trigger tumor formation, another problem associated with stem cell therapy.


The researchers say their technique is easily reproducible and safe because it uses laminin to grow the stem cells.


“To ensure patient safety, cell-based therapies must demonstrate consistent efficacy and reproducible results,” said Enrico Petretto, one of the study’s co-authors. “Through extensive molecular and gene expression analyses, we demonstrate that our laminin-based protocol is highly reproducible for the generation of functional cells to treat heart disease.”


The promising results of the study could lead to a treatment that can regenerate heart muscle damaged by ischemia.


Karl Tryggvason, corresponding author of the study, said: “Our technique brings us closer to providing a new treatment for heart failure patients who would otherwise live with a diseased heart and little chance of recovery. It will also Make a major impact on the field of regenerative cardiology by providing a tried and tested protocol that can restore damaged heart muscle while reducing the risk of adverse side effects.”


The study was published in the NPJ Journal of Regenerative Medicine.






Stem cell therapy regenerates damaged heart cells and improves function

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