A simple method to improve heart-attack repair using stem cell-derived heart muscle cells

University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers have developed a simple method to improve the quality of stem cells used to grow heart muscle, the university reports.  
The heart cannot regenerate muscle tissue after a heart attack has killed part of the muscle wall. That dead tissue can strain surrounding muscle, leading to a lethal heart enlargement, according to the article.

University of Alabama at Birmingham biomedical engineers believe they can aid the failing heart by using pluripotent stem cells to grow heart muscle cells outside of the body, the article states. Then those muscle cells are injected or added to a patch made from those cells, at or near the site of the dead heart tissue.

Experimental and clinical trial evidence with this approach has shown moderate improvement of the pumping ability of the heart's left ventricle, the article states.

However, the ability of the delivered cells to remuscularize the heart and improve cardiac function depends on the quality of those cells.

UAB reports a simple method to improve the quality of the delivered cells, and they found that this method — tested in a mouse heart attack model — doubled the engraftment rate of the injected stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes.

In a research letter in the journal Circulation, co-senior authors Ramaswamy Kannappan, Ph.D., and Jianyi “Jay” Zhang, M.D., Ph.D., say their robust approach to select functionally competent, intact-DNA cells from a heterogeneous population can be easily adopted in clinical settings to yield cells that are better able to repopulate the ischemic myocardium and improve the performance of a failing heart.  Both researchers are BMES members.

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