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Clinical Articles, Lead Article

Cell therapy for heart repair under close scrutiny

Stem cells isolated from a patient’s own heart could generate new vessels which will improve blood supply to damaged heart tissue, according to researchers at the University of Oxford.

The aim of this new research over the next two years is to eventually develop a genetic test that will predict and improve the success of heart stem cell transplantation. The team are trying to understand the differences between the stem cells, to be able to select the right cells and the patients who will benefit most from this treatment.

Dr Enca Martin-Rendon (pictured) of the University of Oxford team said: “Heart stem cells have an advantage over stem cells from bone marrow and blood and may be a better treatment for heart disease…We’re now trying to understand the differences between the stem cells to be able to select the right cells and the right patients who will benefit most from this treatment because in the lab we’ve found that some of these patient’s heart cells can support the growth of new blood vessels while others cannot.”

…and cell therapy may help recovery of damaged hearts

Meanwhile, a team from the Bristol Heart Institute are investigating new ways to improve blood supply to the heart muscle after heart attacks by using cells called ‘pericytes’.

Early tests by Professor Paolo Madeddu and his team have shown that these cells promote recovery but it is unclear how.  The researchers think a protein made by pericytes, called leptin, is involved in the growth of new blood vessels by triggering a production of growth factors which tell neighbouring cells to make new blood vessels.

Professor Madeddu said that this grant “will allow us to investigate how pericytes can help to build new blood vessels to improve recovery from a heart attack. Until now, leptin has been thought of as a hormone which controls our interest in food. However, we will look at how the hormone may be involved in stimulating the growth of new blood vessels.”

Both studies were funded by grants from Heart Research UK. Barbara Harpham, National Director at Heart Research UK says: “This exciting project at Bristol Heart Institute, will help to show whether this cell therapy technique is a viable, less invasive, future treatment for those with coronary heart disease.”

Published on: October 31, 2014

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