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Human stem cells used to repair damaged monkey hearts


May 2, 2014

The researchers say that the injected stem cells regenerated 40 percent of the damaged heart tissue in the primates

The researchers say that the injected stem cells regenerated 40 percent of the damaged heart tissue in the primates

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In what could mark a significant breakthrough in the treatment of heart disease, researchers at the University of Washington (UW) have successfully repaired damaged tissue in monkey hearts using cells created from human embryonic stem cells. The findings demonstrate an ability to produce these cells on an unprecedented scale and hold great potential for restoring functionally of damaged human hearts.

The researchers were exploring ways of restoring human hearts damaged by myocardial infarctions, a common type of heart attack that blocks major arteries and prevents oxygen from reaching the heart muscle. This lack of oxygen in turn causes damage to the muscle tissue and impacts the ability of the heart to pump blood. The researchers are aiming to restore these hearts to full functionality using cells grown from human embryonic stem cells.

"Before this study, it was not known if it is possible to produce sufficient numbers of these cells and successfully use them to remuscularize damaged hearts in a large animal whose heart size and physiology is similar to that of the human heart," says Dr. Charles Murry, professor of pathology, bioengineering and medicine at UW and leader of the research team.

In testing the approach, the researchers anesthetized pigtail macaques and induced controlled myocardial infarctions lasting for 90 minutes apiece, an established model for studying myocardial infarctions. Two weeks later, the scientists injected one billion heart muscle cells into the damaged muscle, ten times the amount researchers had previously been able to generate.

Over the following weeks, the injected cells infiltrated the damaged tissue, maturing to form new muscle fibers and beat in synchrony with the heart. Three months after the injections, the cells appeared fully integrated with the original tissue.

"The results show we can now produce the number of cells needed for human therapy and get formation of new heart muscle on a scale that is relevant to improving the function of the human heart,” says Dr. Michael Laflamme, UW assistant professor of pathology.

The researchers say that the injected stem cells regenerated 40 percent of the damaged heart tissue, though some side effects were observed. In the first weeks after the injections, the team reported occurrences of irregular heartbeats, also known as arrhythmias. However, the problem subsided after two to three weeks once the cells had matured and become stable.

From here, the researchers will work to reduce the risk of arrhythmias and also to clearly demonstrate that the cells are capable of substantially improving the functionality of a damaged heart. They are hopeful the approach will be ready for clinical trials in humans within four years.

The team's research was published in the journal Nature.

Source: University of Washington

About the Author
Nick Lavars Nick was born outside of Melbourne, Australia, with a general curiosity that has drawn him to some distant (and very cold) places. Somewhere between enduring a winter in the Canadian Rockies and trekking through Chilean Patagonia, he graduated from university and pursued a career in journalism. Having worked for publications such as The Santiago Times and The Conversation, he now writes for Gizmag from Melbourne, excited by tech and all forms of innovation, the city's bizarre weather and curried egg sandwiches. All articles by Nick Lavars

Always four or five years away. I am starting to believe they post this information in attempt to gain more funding.


we might be living a lot longer than we thought!

Neil Farbstein

Repairing the heart will not stop another attack because the heart does not cause "myocardial infarctions", restricted blood flow does.

This is typical of the medical profession today: treat the symptoms not the cause, keep them coming back, squeeze the most profit out of every patient. I don't go for checkups at 71 because of this. It they find a blockage, the operation is dangerous and could be fatal. The blockage might not kill before something else if I just leave it alone. And the treatment is NOT a cure, just a stopgap measure.

Don Duncan

This is being done with a company called Intellicell biosciences .. It has a patent on obtaining stromal vascular fractal cells (stem cells) from adipose vascular tissues using patented cavitation technology and no enzyme use. Company trades as SVFC

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