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Cord Blood Stem Cells Could Restore Damaged Hearts

Cord blood stem cells can be more effective alternative to current methods of treating heart muscle after heart attacks, found a team of researchers at Chair of Cardiac Surgery & Translational Research in the School of Clinical Sciences at the University of Bristol. Their experiments’ results were announced online in Stem Cell Reviews & Reports.

World Health Organization data shows that about 20 million people who survive heart attacks and stroke yearly are in need of continuous clinical care and have low life expectancy. The recent research demonstrates that patient’s own stem cells can repair damaged hearts, but availability of these cells is low and they may be of low ‘quality’ due to cell aging. To overcome these problems, the researchers turned to stem cells present in umbilical cord blood and produced from them cells similar to heart muscle ones.

The team used CD133+ cells–stem cells found in adult bone marrow, which therapeutic effectiveness in regenerating damaged cardiac muscle was demonstrated by earlier experiments. These cells are also rarely found in the cord blood. The latter was used as a source of CD133+ cells in the experiment: at first, the stem cells seven-fold multiplied in vitro, and secondly, turned to cardiac muscle cells.

This is the first time cord blood stem cells were turned to cells resembling heart muscle cells in the lab. The researchers hope this method could be developed to treat hearts damaged in a heart attack.