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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Document Type: Research Article
Department of Cardiac Surgery, University of Rostock, Germany
Department of Hematology and Stem Cell Transplantation, Medical University of Graz, Austria
Publication date: 2006-03-01
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