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Stem Cell Therapy for Ischemic Heart Disease: Beginning or End of the Road?

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Despite improvements in emergency treatment, myocardial infarction is often the beginning of a downward spiral leading to congestive heart failure. Other than heart transplantation, current therapeutic means aim at enabling the organism to survive with a heart that is working at a fraction of its original capacity. It is therefore no surprise that cardiac stem cell therapy has raised many hopes. However, neither the ideal source and type of stem cell nor the critical cell number and mode of application have been defined so far. Early reports on myocardial repair by adult bone marrow stem cells from rodent models promoted an unparalleled boost of clinical and experimental cell therapy studies. The phenomenon of stem/progenitor cell-induced angiogenesis in ischemic myocardium has ever since been reproduced by numerous groups in a variety of small and large animal models. Myogenesis, however, is an altogether different matter. Many of the initial clinical studies were fueled by the suggestion that early hematopoietic stem cells have a plasticity high enough to enable cross-lineage differentiation into cells of cardiomyocyte phenotype, but the initial enthusiasm has largely faded. The myogenic potential of stroma cell-derived mesenchymal stem cells is much better documented in animal models, but transfer to the clinical setting faces a variety of obstacles. In clinical pilot trials, we and others have demonstrated the feasibility and safety of administering progenitor cells derived from autologous bone marrow to the myocardium of patients with ischemic heart disease. Clinical efficacy data are still rare, but the few controlled trials that have been completed uniformly show a tendency towards better heart function in cell-treated patients. This review is an attempt to describe the scientific basis for cardiac cell therapy from the point of view of the clinician, focusing on problems that arise with beginning translation into the clinical setting.
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Keywords: Heart; Infarction; Myocardial ischemia; Regeneration; Stem cells

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Cardiac Surgery, University of Rostock, Germany 2: Department of Hematology and Stem Cell Transplantation, Medical University of Graz, Austria

Publication date: 2006-03-01

More about this publication?
  • Cell Transplantation publishes original, peer-reviewed research and review articles on the subject of cell transplantation and its application to human diseases. To ensure high-quality contributions from all areas of transplantation, separate section editors and editorial boards have been established. Articles deal with a wide range of topics including physiological, medical, preclinical, tissue engineering, and device-oriented aspects of transplantation of nervous system, endocrine, growth factor-secreting, bone marrow, epithelial, endothelial, and genetically engineered cells, among others. Basic clinical studies and immunological research papers are also featured. To provide complete coverage of this revolutionary field, Cell Transplantation will report on relevant technological advances, and ethical and regulatory considerations of cell transplants. Cell Transplantation is now an Open Access journal starting with volume 18 in 2009, and therefore there will be an inexpensive publication charge, which is dependent on the number of pages, in addition to the charge for color figures. This will allow work to be disseminated to a wider audience and also entitle the corresponding author to a free PDF, as well as prepublication of an unedited version of the manuscript.

    Cell Transplantation is now being published by SAGE. Please visit their website for the most recent issues.

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