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Cardiac Regeneration Through Novel Dual Stem Cell Therapy

A joint research team comprising scientists from City University of Hong Kong has recently developed a multipronged approach for concurrently rejuvenating both the muscle cells and vascular systems of the heart by utilizing two types of stem cells.

Research findings by the team give hope to develop a new treatment for repairing myocardial infarction (MI) heart, as an alternative to the existing complex and risky heart transplant for seriously ill patients.

MI is a fatal disorder caused by a shortage of coronary blood supply to the myocardium. It leads to permanent loss of heart muscle cells, and scar tissue formation, resulting in irreversible damage to cardiac function or even heart failure. With limited therapeutic options for severe MI and advanced heart failure, a heart transplant is the last resort. But it is very risky, costly and subject to limited suitable donors. Therefore, stem cell-based therapy has emerged as a promising therapeutic option.

Dr Ban Kiwon, a stem cell biologist from Department of Biomedical Sciences at City University of Hong Kong, has been focusing on developing novel stem cell-based treatments for cardiac regeneration. “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 comprehensive repair of both at the same time. But so far, the strategies only focus on either one,” he explains.

In this regard, Dr Ban and his collaborators, including researchers from Konkuk University, The Catholic University of Korea, Pohang University of Science and Technology, and T&R Biofab in South Korea, have recently developed a multipronged approach. It aimed to concurrently rejuvenate both the heart muscles and the vasculatures by utilizing two major types of stem cells, namely human bone marrow derived mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) and cardiomyocytes derived from human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC-CMs).

The hMSCs was employed in the study due to their prominent paracrine activity of secreting good proteins to promote the regeneration of blood vessels and the endothelial cell survival. And the hiPSC-CMs was utilized for their similarities with human primary CMs in terms of the expressions of cardiac-specific genes, structural proteins, ion channels, and more importantly, the spontaneous contraction.

The results from the rat MI model showed that this dual approach led to a significant improvement of cardiac function and enhancement of vessel formation on a MI heart. The implanted hMSC-loaded patch not only provided a micro-environment which enhanced vascular regeneration as expected, but also improved the retention of hiPSC-CMs, ultimately augmenting heart function and restoring the injured myocardium. [APBN]

Source: Soon-Jung Park, Ri Youn Kim, Bong-Woo Park, Sunghun Lee, Seong Woo Choi, Jae-Hyun Park, Jong Jin Choi, Seok-Won Kim, Jinah Jang, Dong-Woo Cho, Hyung-Min Chung, Sung-Hwan Moon, Kiwon Ban & Hun-Jun Park (2019) Dual stem cell therapy synergistically improves cardiac function and vascular regeneration following myocardial infarction. Nature Communications volume 10, Article number: 3123 (2019)