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Improved Cardiac Regeneration Developed

A novel multi pronged approach for concurrently rejuvenating both the vasculature and cardiac muscle of the heart has been recently developed. The results give hope to developing a new treatment for repairing hearts that have been damaged by myocardial infarction. This new therapy could serve as an alternative to heart transplants

The joint research team consisted of scientists and researchers from City University of Hong Kong along with other organizations, conducted the first study that involved two distinct stem cell effects for cardiac repair. The aim was to concurrently rejuvenate both the vasculatures and heart muscles by using two major stem cell types – bone marrow derived mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) and cardiomyocytes which were derived from induced pluripotent stem cells. (hiPSC-CMs).

The hMSCs was used in the study because of their prominent paracrine activity of secreting good proteins which promote the regeneration of blood vessels and endothelial cell survival. The other stem cell type, hiPSC-CMs, was used because of their similarities with human primary CMs in terms of their expressions of structural proteins, cardiac specific genes, ion channels and most importantly their spontaneous contraction.

Earlier studies describe the beneficial effects of either hMSCs or hiPSC-CMs on a myocardial infarction (MI) separately. The recent study was the first to simultaneously study the effects of these two distinct stem cells for cardiac repair. The team used a dual approach in which the hiPSC-CMs and hMSCs were delivered by two distinct routes. The hiPSC-CMs were injected intramyocardially directly into a border zone of a rat’s heart. The hMSCs loaded patch was implanted on top of the infarct area similar to a bandage.

The results of the study indicate that this dual approach showed a significant improvement in cardiac function and enhancement of vessel formation on a MI heart. The hMSC loaded patch not only provided a micro environment which enhanced vascular regeneration which was expected, but in addition showed improvement in the retention of hiPSC-CMs. Ultimately this augmented heart function and also restored the injured myocardium.

In addition, histological analysis demonstrated that the implanted hMSC loaded patch promoted the functional maturation of injected hiPSC-CMs. They became more rectangular and elongated in cell shape and appeared to be more organized in order which are typical morphological characteristics of mature adult CMs. Functional maturation of intramyocardially hiPSC-CMs is very important because it can reduce the potential risk of arrhythmia’s which are a major cause of sudden cardiac death.

The team believe the novel dual approach could potentially provide clinical and translational benefits to the field of cardiac regeneration. Using the same principle, the protocol could be utilized in repair of other organs including the liver, pancreas and brain where multiple types of stem cells co exist.

The team is now working on additional studies using larger animals such as pigs and they have applied for a patent.

To view the original scientific study click below

Dual stem cell therapy synergistically improves cardiac function and vascular regeneration following myocardial infarction.