Heart regeneration: Top 5 Interesting Stem Cell Stories of 2013

stem cells heart (Damian Gadal)

There's no doubt that heart disease is one of the most widespread and costly health problems facing developed countries today. Although stem cell therapy for heart damage has yet to be proven safe and effective, there have been many exciting developments in the field in 2013. Here, I have listed 5 of them which I found particularly interesting:

Researchers use stem cells to pinpoint cause of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy

January 3rd 2013

  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HOCM) is a common cause of sudden cardiac death
  • Stanford scientists created induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells from the skin cells of 10 members of a family with a genetic mutation (MYH7) that causes HOCM.
  • The researchers then coaxed the cells to become cardiomyocytes so they could closely study the cells' behaviour and responsiveness to the chemical and electrical signals that keep a heart beating normally.
  • They also used these bioengineered cardiomyocytes to quickly pinpoint the drugs most likely to be effective in human patients and to study their potential as preventive medications.

Stem cell "homing" signal may help treat heart failure patients

February 21st 2013

  • This was the first human study of its kind
  • Researchers activated heart failure patients' stem cells with gene therapy to improve their symptoms, heart function and quality of life.
  • Rather than use multiple procedures to remove, multiply, then re-insert cells, researchers delivered a gene that encodes a factor called SDF-1 to activate stem cells like a "homing" signal.
  • The researchers introduced plasmid DNA to induce expression of SDF-1 into the hearts of 17 patients with ischaemic cardiomyopathy.
  • This results showed that enhancing the recruitment of progenitor cells by overexpression of SDF-1 via gene therapy is a feasible strategy in patients with ischemic cardiomyopathy.
  • Researchers are conducting a larger trial.

Cardiopoietic ‘smart' stem cells show promise in heart failure patients

April 10th 2013

  • Researchers demonstrated that therapy with cardiopoietic (cardiogenically-instructed) or “smart” stem cells can improve heart health for people suffering from heart failure.
  • This is the first application in patients of lineage-guided stem cells for targeted regeneration of a failing organ.
  • It paves the way to development of next generation regenerative medicine solutions.
  • The clinical trial was designed to assess feasibility and safety of cardiopoietic mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) in ischaemic heart failure.
  • The results showed that every patient in the stem cell treatment group improved. At 6 months follow-up, clinical performance assessed from the 6 minute walk-test improved, as did the ejection fraction.

Heart cells change stem cell behaviour

May 2nd 2013

  • Researchers at Rice University and Texas Children's Hospital showed that amniotic fluid-derived stem cells (AFSC) can communicate with mature heart cells and form electrical couplings with each other similar to those found in heart tissue.
  • AFSCs that are cultured with but physically separated from rat heart cells don't differentiate into heart cells, but they do still communicate with each another and become electrically coupled.
  • However, these electrical connections alone do not prompt AFSCs to differentiate into cardiac cells.

Scientists build living patch for damaged hearts

May 6th 2013

  • Biomedical engineers at Duke Univeristy grew 3D human heart muscle that acts just like natural tissue.
  • The "heart patch" grown from human embryonic stem cells overcame two major obstacles facing cell-based therapies: 1) the patch conducted electricity at roughly the same speed as natural heart cells and, 2) it "squeezes" appropriately.
  • In addition to a possible therapy for patients with heart disease, the engineered heart tissues could also potentially be used to effectively screen new drugs or therapies.

What other interesting stem cell stories for heart regeneration are there from 2013? Why not join our discussion on LinkedIn, or leave a comment below.

If you'd like to hear more about innovations and strategy in regenerative medicine, you might be interested in attending the World Stem Cells & Regenerative Medicine Congress, 21-23 May 2013, London. Click here to download the brochure. Want more from Total BioPharma? Sign up to our newsletter – it doesn't cost anything and only takes a minute.

You might be interested in downloading this white paper from EMD Millipore: Growth Kinetics of Human Mesenchymal Stem Cells in a 3L Single-Use, Stirred Tank Bioreactor.

The heart might not be the only thing stem cells can heal: 4 Reasons Why Regenerative Medicine Could Help Heal UK Economy.

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