Stem Cells to Repair the Heart

Cardiac stem cell therapy has been shown to stimulate the growth of new heart cells after a heart attack, but exactly how that happens is unclear.

Some researchers hypothesize that these stem cells are the source of new cardiac muscle cells. They normally divide slowly, but when selectively harvested from a patient, they can be increased in number and then infused back into the recipient’s heart.

“After injection, the new cardiac stem cells proliferate and are the source of new heart muscle cells,” Canty said. “With this approach, only cells from the same patient can be used.”

Led by Dr. John Canty Jr., chief of cardiology in the UB Department of Medicine and a cardiologist with UBMD, a National Institutes of Health award will help determine what types of cardiac stem cell therapy is most effective to treat patients with heart failure.

The new research will study how cardiosphere-derived cells from donors can be as effective; as well as how tissue from heart biopsies can be grown and if they can be used to improve cardiac function.

“Using cardiac stem cells that don’t need to be harvested from the recipient would make this type of therapy more widely available to the increasing number of patients in need of treatments for heart failure,” he said. “Demonstrating the feasibility of using cells from an unrelated donor would also provide an off-the-shelf approach to cardiac stem cell therapy.”

Other researchers on the team include Dr. Gen Suzuki, associate professor in the department of medicine; Munawwar Sajjad, research associate professor in the department of nuclear medicine; and Brian Weil, postdoctoral research fellow in the department of medicine.