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Study shows stem cells have potential to help childrens’ hearts

Stem cells may have the same potential in treating children with congenital heart diseases as has been shown with adults patients, according to a study published recently in STEM CELLS Translational Medicine.1

The study looked at the feasibility and long-term safety of injecting autologous umbilical cord blood cells directly into the heart muscle at the paediatric stage of heart development.

The team injected the stem cells directly into the right ventricle of groups of three- and four-week old healthy piglets, and then compared the results to a control group that did not receive any cells. Over the next three months, the animals were monitored to assess cardiac performance and rhythm to determine how safe the procedure would be for humans.

“During this follow-up period, we found no significant acute or chronic cardiac injury pattern caused by the injections directly into the heart…and all the animals’ hearts appeared to be normal and healthy” said author Dr Timothy J Nelson (Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, USA).

“This led us to conclude that autologous stem cells from cord blood can be safely collected and surgically delivered to children. The study also establishes the foundation for cell-based therapy for children and aims to accelerate the science toward clinical trials for helping children with congenital heart disease that could benefit from a regenerative medicine strategy,” Dr Nelson added.

His co-author, Dr Susan Cantero Peral, commented: “This work highlights the importance and utility of umbilical cord blood as it can be applied to new applications. Rather than discarding this sample at birth, individuals with congenital heart disease may one day be able to have these cells collected and processed in a specialised way to make them available for cardiac regeneration.”

…and stem cells from placenta show promise for treating heart failure

Adherent stem cells collected from placenta show promise as a treatment for heart failure, significantly improving cardiac function when injected into the heart muscle, according to another study published recently in STEM CELLS Translational Medicine.2

An international team undertook a study to test the therapeutic effects of PDA-001, an intravenous (IV) formulation of human placenta-derived adherent cells (PDACs), in mice. The researchers were also testing the best way to deliver the therapy.

Co-author Dr Patrick C H Hsieh (Institute of Biomedical Sciences, Taipei, Taiwan) said: “Three weeks after chronic heart failure was induced in the animals they were treated with the stem cells by either direct intramyocardial (IM) or IV injection…The results showed that the IM injections significantly improved the left ventricle systolic and diastolic functions compared with injection of vehicle or IV injection of PDA-001.”

Dr Uri Herzberg (Celgene Cellular Therapeutics, Warren, New Jersey, USA) said: “The IM injections also decreased cardiac fibrosis in the vicinity of the injection sites. We repeatedly observed improvement of cardiac function in the injected sites following IM PDA-001 treatment…Based on these results, we want to continue our investigations to optimize the effect through controlling the dose, timing and delivery.”

“In this animal model of progressive heart injury, stem cells isolated from placenta showed promise as an off-the-shelf therapy for cardiac repair, warranting the need for testing in additional models,” said Dr Anthony Atala, Editor-in-Chief of STEM CELLS Translational Medicine and director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine.


1. Cantero Peral S, Burkhart HM, Oommen S, et al. Stem Cells Transl Med 2015;4:195–206.

2. Chen HJ, Chen CH, Chang MY, et al. Human placenta-derived adherent cells improve cardiac performance in mice with chronic heart failure. Stem Cells Transl Med 2015;4:269–75.

Published on: March 27, 2015

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