Researchers Turn to Dual Stem Cell Therapy to Offer Cardiac Patients a New Life

Heart attack can impose life-threatening damage to the heart, and quick medical assistance may be required in severe scenarios. A recent research, led by a team of scientists from City University of Hong Kong (CityU), aimed to develop a new effective procedure to treat patients with cardiac failure.

The research findings were published in scientific journal Nature Communications, titled “Dual stem cell therapy synergistically improves cardiac function and vascular regeneration following myocardial infarction”. The dual stem cell therapy would serve as an alternative to heart transplant which is the current risky treatment for seriously-ill cardiac patients.

The researchers focused on simultaneously reviving both the muscle cells and vascular systems of the heart by utilizing two types of stem cells to obtain multiple benefits.

Myocardial infarction is a lethal disorder causing damage to the myocardium due to the decreased blood flow. It causes a permanent decline in cardiomyocytes, scar tissue formation and ultimately cardiac failure. A heart transplant is the only cure due to the lack of medications available hitherto. Heart transplant has the drawbacks of requiring a suitable donor to avoid the rejection by the recipient’s immune system, as well as the associated costs and its fatality rates. Thus, researchers are concentrating on developing stem cell-based therapy.

From the Department of Biomedical Sciences at CityU, a stem cell biologist Dr. Ban Kiwon, aims to come up with an effective treatment for cardiac failure, called the stem cell-based treatments. Dr. Ban said,”Heart is an organ composed of cardiac muscles and blood vessels, where vessels are essential to supply oxygen and energy to the muscles.

Since both cardiac muscles and vasculatures would be severely damaged following MI, the therapeutic strategies should focus on the comprehensive repair of both at the same time. But so far the strategies only focus on either one.”

Dr. Ban and his colleagues, in collaboration with the researchers from Konkuk University, The Catholic University of Korea, Pohang University of Science and Technology, and T&R Biofab in South Korea, have developed a versatile perspective, aimed to rejuvenate both the heart muscles and the associated vasculatures simultaneously.

It involves the human bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) and cardiomyocytes derived from human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC-CMs).

The researchers conducted the trials by using hMSCs and hiPSC-CMs considering their significant characteristics. The paracrine characteristic of hMSCs promotes the secretion of proteins responsible for the regeneration of blood vessels and supporting the endothelium. The human primary cardiomyocytes resemblance with the hiPSC-CMs made them perfect for utilization in this research.

Many research records separately show the effects of hiPSC-CMs or hMSCs on cardiac regeneration. The research led by scientists from CityU examined the concurrent effects of these two stem cells on MI. They conducted a trial on a rat’s heart, delivered hiPSC-CMs via intramyocardial route, injecting directly into the border zone of the rat’s heart, and HMSCs patch embedded in the top of the tissue undergone necrosis.

The researchers concluded that the concurrent use of these two stem cells reduces the damage done by cardiac failure effectively, and aids in vessel regrowth on an MI heart.

The micro-environment provided by the hMSC-loaded patch not only elevated the vascular regrowth but also enhanced the heart functioning and reinstating the damaged tissues of the heart.

Furthermore, the findings show that the implantation of the hMSC-loaded patch proved significant in causing the functional maturation of injected hiPSC-CMs. The cardiomyocytes derived from human induced pluripotent stem cells modified in their structures, they became enlarged and rectangular in cell shape, more organized. Functional maturation of intramyocardially injected hiPSC-CMs is essential to reduce irregular heart rhythm, ultimately lowering the risk of cardiac death.

Dr. Ban said; “We believe this novel dual approach can potentially provide translational and clinical benefit to the field of cardiac regeneration,”  He added, “Based on the same principle, the protocol may also be utilized for repairing other organs including brain, liver, and pancreas in which multiple types of stem cells are co-existing.”

In the coming years, researchers are aiming to utilize dual stem cells approach to treating disorders related to other vital organs of the human body.

Emma Colleen

Emma’s professional life has been mostly in hospital management, while studying international business in college. Of course, she now covers topics for us in health.

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