Stem cells train heart following heart attack

Nov 21, 2007

Injecting adult stem cells into a heart following a heart attack (infarction) improves the heart function and strengthens the heart wall.

The use of such cells may eventually reduce the chance of heart failure following a heart attack. Researchers from Leiden University discovered this in a project forming part of the Dutch Programme for Tissue Engineering, funded by Technology Foundation STW and the Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development (ZonMW).

Following a heart attack, part of the heart tissue dies. It is still not possible to restore the scar tissue arising as a result of this. The majority of stem cell researchers attempt to make new heart muscle cells from stem cells.

Liesbeth Winter of the Leiden University Medical Center, however, was able to prove the concept of using the embryonic potential of adult human cells to train the heart: this cell therapy ensured that less tissue died and that the remaining heart cells functioned better.

The PhD student used the 'Epicardium Derived Cell' or EPDC. This cell plays a crucial role during embryonic heart development: the embryonic EPDCs provide cells for the connective tissue skeleton of the heart and for the walls of the coronary arteries. EPDCs also play an important role in the formation of a thick, compact heart muscle wall. Without EPDCs, the heart muscle would remain very thin and the embryo would die.

Winter used adult human EPDCs that she extracted from the atrium of the heart. She transplanted these cells to a mouse heart that had suffered an infarction. The mice receiving these cells retained a better heart function than mice without these cells, both in the short term and in the longer term of several weeks. The human cells also ensured that less mouse cells died off.

Two weeks following cell transplantation, the treated hearts contained more blood vessels, the heart muscle cells exhibited an increased activity of DNA damage repair, and the wall was thicker where the infarct had occurred. These results suggest that EPDCs have an almost instant stimulating effect on the surrounding heart tissue following transplantation.

The Dutch Programme on Tissue Engineering has been running since 2004. Prior to this, NWO, Technology Foundation STW, and ZonMw had made 3 millions euros available for a pilot programme in this area. The DPTE programme has been funded to the tune of M€ 50. Half of the funding came from a subsidy of M€ 25 obtained from the Dutch government's Bsik programme (Grants for Investments in Knowledge Infrastructure).

Source: NWO

Explore further: First vital step in fertilization between sperm and egg discovered

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New technique for identifying gene-enhancers

Mar 24, 2014

An international team led by researchers with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has developed a new technique for identifying gene enhancers - sequences of DNA that act to amplify the ...

Recommended for you

Researchers transplant regenerated oesophagus

Apr 15, 2014

Tissue engineering has been used to construct natural oesophagi, which in combination with bone marrow stem cells have been safely and effectively transplanted in rats. The study, published in Nature Communications, shows ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

US judge overturns state's abortion law

A federal judge on Wednesday overturned a North Dakota law banning abortions when a fetal heartbeat can be detected, as early as six weeks into pregnancy and before many women know they're pregnant.

Meteorites yield clues to Martian early atmosphere

(Phys.org) —Geologists who analyzed 40 meteorites that fell to Earth from Mars unlocked secrets of the Martian atmosphere hidden in the chemical signatures of these ancient rocks. Their study, published ...

Japan lawmakers demand continued whaling

Japanese lawmakers on Wednesday demanded the government redesign its "research" whaling programme to circumvent an international court ruling that described the programme as a commercial hunt dressed up as ...