Post heart attack stem cell therapy could prove to be a viable treatment to prevent long term damage from a heart attack, at least that is what the results of a recent study conducted at Sidney Kimmel Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University suggest.
Dr. Xin-Liang Ma, Professor of Emergency Medicine, and his team have shown it is possible to reduce long term heart damage following a heart attack by injecting stem cells into the heart along with an injection of the cardio-protective protein CTRP9 into the blood stream.
While stem cells have potential to help patients recover from heart attacks and limit damage, so far treatment with stem cells has only shown success in animal models. While human trials have been conducted, the stem cells rapidly die and give little benefit to patients.
The key to the success of the treatment is thought to be to create an environment that will allow the stem cells to thrive. However, the environment in the heart following a heart attack is too hostile for stem cells to survive for long.
The research builds on previous studies conducted by Dr. Xin-Liang Ma and his team, which showed that following a heart attack, CTRP9 levels fall dramatically. CTRP9 is a naturally produced protein with cardio-protective properties that helps to create an environment favorable for stem cells.
The researchers believed it was the lack of that protein that limited the effectiveness of post heart attack stem cell therapy in human studies. The team tested the theory that returning CTRP9 levels to normal levels would improve the longevity of injected stem cells.
In animals that received CRTP9 injections prior to the introduction of stem cells, the stem cells survived for longer and covered a larger area of damage of the heart. The stem cells facilitated repair of damaged tissue and prevented further scar tissue from forming.
Obtaining heart stem cells poses problems clinically, so the researchers used stem cells obtained from fat tissue, which are far easier to extract and is the least invasive way of obtaining stem cells from patients.
Dr. Ma said, “We demonstrate that CTRP9 stimulates stem cells to secrete a number of proteins and molecules that not only protect stem cells from toxic cellular death, but also shield the heart from oxidative damage after heart attack.”
While the research has produced highly promising results, the technique was only shown to be effective in animal models. Whether post heart attack stem cell therapy using this new technique will produce similar results in human patients remains to be seen.
The research paper – CTRP9 Regulates the Fate of Implanted Mesenchymal Stem Cells and Mobilizes Their Protective Effects Against Ischemic Heart Injury via Multiple Novel Signaling Pathways – has been published in the journal Circulation.