UM stem cell research on heart may go national
Written by Lidia Dinkova on March 18, 2015
University of Miami stem cell research on generating healthy heart tissue in heart attack survivors is on track to be tested across the US.
The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, part of federal medical research arm the National Institutes of Health, is to fund the $8 million cost if the trial wins necessary approvals.
The trial, the first of this research in humans, is a step toward restoring full heart function in heart attack survivors.
The research developed at the UM Miller School of Medicine’s Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute is on combining two types of stem cells to generate healthy heart tissue in heart attack survivors. Scientists have in the past studied using one type of stem cell at a time, a method that’s worked OK, said Dr. Joshua Hare, founding director of the UM stem cell institute.
But UM research shows that combining two types of stem cells expedites healing and regeneration of healthy heart muscle.
“We could remove twice the scar tissue than with either cell alone,” Dr. Hare said. “We had some scientific information that they actually interacted and worked together, so we tested that. It worked.”
Researchers combined mesenchymal stem cells, usually generated from human bone marrow, and cardiac stem cells, isolated from a mammal’s heart.
Stem cells are cells that haven’t matured to specialize to work in a particular part of the body, such as the heart. Because these cells are in a way nascent, they have the potential to become specialized for a particular body function.
Doctors have been using stem cells to regenerate lost tissue – from bones to heart muscle. The mesenchymal and cardiac stem cells each work well in generating healthy heart tissue in heart attack survivors, Dr. Hare said. Combining them expedites the process, according to the UM research.
After a heart attack, scar tissue replaces a survivor’s healthy heart muscle. The scar tissue essentially hinders the normal heart function of pumping blood in and out.
Dr. Hare used a sports analogy to explain what the dual-stem cell therapy is believed to achieve. “The normal shape of a beating heart, the inside of the beating chamber is shaped like a football,” he said. When there’s scar tissue “the whole thing remodels and blows up like a balloon and becomes a basketball, and that’s very undesirable. So by replacing that scar tissue, that can cause the chamber to revert back to a football shape.”
The research is to be tested at seven centers: UM, the University of Florida, Stanford University, Texas Heart Institute, University of Louisville, Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation and Indiana University.
The Food and Drug Administration and a board of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute still must approve the trial before patients are recruited and the funds are granted.
The trial is on testing the research on heart attack survivors only. But Dr. Hare said this therapy could potentially help other patients, including children born with congenital heart defects, a severe condition where even post-surgery patients could face problems with heart function.