HomeMedicineCardiologyIs heart stem cell therapy possible?

Is heart stem cell therapy possible?

A new study by Mekala and colleagues in Circulation Research suggests that heart stem cell therapy is a possible treatment for heart failure.


Stem cells are a special kind of cells that have the ability to become any kind of tissue. These kinds of cells are vital during early development but are mostly lost by the time we are children. Stem cells have great potential to aid doctors in treating multiple diseases, such as cancer. As a result, researchers have long sought ways to find and use stem cells for medical treatment.

A new research paper by Mekala and colleagues, published in Circulation Research, reports the potential of using heart stem cell therapy to treat heart failure. After a heart attack, parts of the heart muscle die. If too many dead spots accumulate, or they occur in a particularly vital area, heart failure, and ultimately death, will occur. Heart stem cell therapy could replace those dead cells with healthy heart cells and restore function to the heart.

The researchers studied a particular tissue type within the mouse aorta, which is known to contain relatively high numbers of stem cells. They collected cells from male and female mice, and after purifying and treating those stem cells, they injected them into chick embryos. These embryos were then assessed for differentiation of the heart stem cells. In addition, sections of the mouse aortas were cultured separately to observe cell growth.

Mekala and colleagues found that the cells from the mouse aorta formed small cell colonies that included spontaneously beating cells like those that make up heart muscle. These beating cells displayed gene expression patterns typical of heart progenitor, or precursor, cells. This same differentiation occurred in the cells injected into the chick embryos.

The findings of this study strongly support the idea that we could one day use stem cells to treat heart failure using novel heart stem cell therapy techniques. Further work will be required to ensure that these aortic cells can differentiate into mature heart muscle cells that can work safely within the heart wall of recipients.

Written by C.I. Villamil

Reference: Mekala et al. 2018. Generation of cardiomyocytes from vascular adventitia-resident stem cells. Circ Res 123:686-699.


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