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Stem cell therapy for heart failure: the science and current progress

M Ian Phillips, Yao Liang Tang, Kai Pinkernell
Future Cardiology 2008, 4 (3): 285-98
Cell therapy, particularly with stem cells, has created great interest as a solution to the fact that there are limited treatments for postischemic heart disease and none that can regenerate damaged heart cells to strengthen cardiac performance. From the first efforts with myoblasts to recent clinical trials with bone marrow-derived stem cells, early reports of cell therapy suggest improvement in cardiac performance as well as other clinical end points. Based on these exciting but tentative results, other stem cell types are being explored for their particular advantages as a source of adult stem cells. Autologous adipose-derived stem cells are multilinear and can be obtained relatively easily in large quantities from patients; cardiac-derived stem cells are highly appropriate for engraftment in their natural niche, the heart. Human umbilical cord blood cells are potentially forever young and allogenic adult mesenchymal stem cells appear not to evoke the graft versus host reaction. Human embryonic stem cells are effective and can be scaled up for supply purposes. The recent discovery of induced pluripotentcy in human adult stem cells, with only three transcription factor genes, opens a whole new approach to making autologous human pluripotent stem cells from skin or other available tissues. Despite the excitement, stem cells may have to be genetically modified with heme oxygenase, Akt or other genes to survive transplantation in a hypoxic environment. Homing factors and hormones secreted from transplanted stem cells may be more important than cells if they provide the necessary stimulus to trigger cardiac regrowth to replace scar tissue. As we await results from larger and more prolonged clinical trials, the science of stem cell therapy in cardiac disease keeps progressing.


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