During a heart attack, muscle cells that make up the heart’s tissue are lost permanently. This cell loss is one of the leading causes of heart failure. Although cell transplantation can result in modest improvements in cardiac function, several challenges remain, including how to increase the survival, integration and functionality of the transplanted cells within the host tissue.
New research published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences may provide strategies to overcome these challenges. Stem Cell Network investigator Dr. Peter Zandstra, in collaboration with Dr. Milica Radisic, and their labs at the University of Toronto have developed and tested a method that allows rapid screening of different cell types for their capacity to functionally integrate into heart tissue, and provides insights into the barriers that until now have prevented transplanted cells from adequately merging with the patient’s damaged heart tissue.
The research used an in vitro cell injection test-bed comprised of engineered heart tissue as a basis for their study. Three specific outcomes are reported by lead author Dr. Hannah Song:
- The modeltissue/cell injection system can functionally distinguish between thecardiac tissue integration capabilities of different injected cell types;
- The modeltissue/cell injection system can be used to identify conditions whereinthe survival and integration capacities of a specific cell population canbe improved; and
- Pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiac progenitors can integrate and differentiate inmodel cardiac tissue, and these cells appear able to significantly improveengineered cardiac tissue function.
Of particular value to scientists is this method’s ability to significantly reduce the time and effort needed to screen known or new cell populations and drugs for their cardiac cell therapy potential, as well as new knowledge about barriers that should be considered during in vivo cardiac cell transplantation studies.In addition, the study suggests, for the first time, that pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiac progenitor cells may be effectively delivered for cardiac cell therapy.
The research was funded in part by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario.
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