Scientists at the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences found that infusing stem cells derived from cardiac biopsies or “cardiospheres,” generated healthy, new heart cells in animals with chronic ischemic heart disease.
They hope that this stem cell therapy could be applicable to patients suffering from heart dysfunction arising from insufficient blood flow to the heart.
The UB research demonstrated a 30 percent increase in healthy heart muscle cells within a month after receiving cardiosphere-derived cells (or CDCs).
This finding is contrary to conventional wisdom, which has held that heart cells are terminally differentiated and thus, are unable to divide.
Ischemic heart disease from coronary artery narrowing and prior heart attacks is the most common cause of heart failure, the UB researchers explained.
While other investigators have largely focused on regenerating muscle in scarred tissue, the UB group has shown that cardiac repair could be brought about by infusing the CDCs slowly into coronary arteries of the diseased as well as normal areas of the heart.
“Whereas most research has focused upon irreversible damage and scarring following a heart attack, we have shown that a single CDC infusion is capable of improving heart function in areas of the heart that are viable but not functioning normally,” said study co-author John M. Canty Jr., MD, the Albert and Elizabeth Rekate Professor of Medicine in the UB medical school and UB’s chief of cardiovascular medicine
The research currently is in a preclinical phase but the UB researchers expect that translation to determine effectiveness in patients could take place within two to three years or possibly even sooner.
The research has been presented at the Scientific Sessions of the American Heart Association in Orlando.