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IV Delivery of Stem Cells Shows Success in Healing Damaged Hearts

Posted on May 31, 2018

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A new stem cell therapy in clinical trials may prove revolutionary in treating heart failure.

The treatment, developed by the Translational and Vascular Biology Research at MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute, uses mesenchymal stem cells to reduce inflammation and damage in heart tissue.

Mesenchymal stem cells can differentiate into many different cell types, including bone cells, cartilage cells, muscle cells and fat cells.

The ability to reduce inflammation in damaged heart muscle is critical as it is one of the main contributors to progressive heart failure.

The treatment has already been shown to be very effective in mice with chronic heart failure, a fact that is encouraging to the researchers at MedStar.

It is also encouraging to Dr. Joel Singer.

Singer is a New York stem cell physician who uses mesenchymal stem cells taken from adipose tissue to treat patients who have suffered damage to their heart after a heart attack.

“During a heart attack, blood flow to the heart muscle is stopped when the coronary artery becomes blocked. When blood flow stops, the heart muscle is deprived of oxygen and nutrients needed for survival,” Singer said.

The MedStar researchers are planning human trials of their stem cell technique on patients with the most dangerous form of heart failure: heart failure in the left ventricle, the main chamber of the heart.

The participants will be individuals who have devices known as left ventricular assist devices (LVADs) that assist with pumping blood through the heart.

The hope is to be able to treat these critically ill individuals with the mesenchymal stem cells and then move on to individuals who are less critically ill. Overall, the goal of the MedStar study authors is to improve health outcomes for all types of heart patients.

During the treatment, the stem cells are applied to the heart intravenously. Once the stem cells are in the body, they find the damaged heart tissue and begin repair.

“Damaged tissue – whether it is heart muscle or an injured knee joint – puts off signals to the body that there is an injury and it needs help through signaling proteins known as growth factors. When stem cells hit the bloodstream, they see the signal and go to the injury site,” Singer said.

Intravenous delivery is different from other heart stem cell treatments that apply stem cells to the heart directly, which proves to be difficult, especially if a patient requires multiple treatments.

The MedStar trial is expected to last a year and a half and will involve 30 participants who have been diagnosed with heart failure. The participants will have a 40 to 50 percent chance of falling critically ill because of their condition over the next four years.

If the study proves successful in treating these critically ill heart failure patients, the next step would be a widespread study for all heart patients.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart failure affects approximately 5.7 million adults in the United States. Nearly half of the people who develop heart failure die within five years of their diagnoses.

Treating heart failure cost over $30 billion each year.

The most common cause of heart failure is coronary artery disease, a condition that develops when the coronary artery becomes blocked by a buildup of fatty deposits and arterial plaque in a condition known as atherosclerosis.

Atherosclerosis can develop because of genetics, an unhealthy diet and a sedentary lifestyle.

Other factors in developing heart failure include faulty heart valves, high blood pressure and lung conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

 

Sources:

WTOP.Com. Novel stem cell therapy to be tested on local heart patients. 16 May 2018.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heart Failure Fact Sheet. 16 June 2016.

 

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