Researchers at the University of Minnesota have found a cell type in adult rat heart tissue that can make all types of cardiac cells.
This can offer the hope that in the future, these cells could be harvested, expanded in the lab, and possibly delivered as a treatment after a heart attack to repair damaged heart muscle, or used to grow a new blood vessel for use in bypass surgery.
The research is published online in the journal Nature Clinical Trials Cardiovascular Medicine, and will appear in the February print edition of the journal.
The researchers took tissue from adult rat hearts, added certain growth factors, and expanded them in a dish. These cells were able to give rise to all types of cardiac cells, such as the cells that make up the left and right ventricles and blood vessels. The cells even beat in a laboratory dish, as more mature heart muscle cells will do.
Then they injected the cells into rats with injured hearts and documented that the cells repaired the damaged tissue, said Doris A. Taylor, Ph.D., professor of physiology and director of the Center for Cardiovascular Repair.
“They appear at this time to be the ideal cell to use for cardiac repair,” Taylor said. “They do everything embryonic cardiac cells do, and they don’t create teratomas, or tumors.”
The research was completed in the Center for Cardiovascular Repair by Taylor’s group and other scientists including Harald Ott, M.D., now a surgical resident at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Thomas Matthiesen, Johannes Brechtken, a cardiology fellow at the University, Suzanne Grindle, Saik-Kia Goh, and Wendy Nelson, Ph.D.
While prior research; published while Taylor and colleagues had their study in press; described cells in adult heart tissue that have the ability to differentiate into different types of cardiac tissue, Taylor said the cells her lab found appear more immature than previously described cells and can be grown in the laboratory to the number necessary to make an effective treatment in a relatively short period of time.
Currently, a number of other stem cells found in bone marrow or muscle are being evaluated in human clinical trials. While promising, those experimental therapies haven’t been proven as effective as scientists hoped, Taylor said. She believes the group of cells she and her team have identified will prove more potent than cells currently in use for clinical trials.