Researchers from the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences have shown that stem cell therapy could lead to new health heart cell formation in animals with chronic ischemic heart disease. The cells for the treatment were taken from "cardiospheres" or cardiac biopsies.
In the research, the quantity of healthy heart cells in animals with chronic ischemic heart disease increased by 30 percent in a month after transplantation of autologous cardiosphere-derived cells. This finding overturns the belief that heart cells are unable to divide since they are terminally differentiated.
Unlike other researchers that focused on scar tissue reduction and heart muscle regeneration, the UB team aimed at improving function of the heart areas that are alive but function improperly, sometimes called hibernating myocardium. They demonstrated that slow infusion of cardiosphere-derived cells into coronary arteries could bring cardiac repair.
In the study, the heart cells derived from biopsies were multiplied outside the body and slowly infused back into coronary arteries of animals suffering chronic heart dysfunction. As a result the infused cells gave rise to small muscle cells that functioned more properly than diseased hypertrophied myocytes.
Stem cell infusion into coronary arteries is simpler than stem cell injection into heart muscle that requires specific equipment.
The research is currently at the preclinical stage. However the researchers hope that determining effectiveness of the stem cell therapy that is potentially applicable to patients with heart dysfunctions will start in two-tree years.