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Umbilical Cord-Derived Stem Cells Could Help Those with Heart Failure

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Umbilical cord-derived stem cells could be the answer for patients with heart failure (HF). A study published yesterday in Circulation Research, indicates that cardiac muscle function and quality-of-life (QoL) could be enhanced after treatment with this specific type of stem cell.

HF is a rapidly escalating issue, affecting >37 million people across the world. Patients experience a number of symptoms, including dyspnoea, fatigue, reduced exercise tolerance and edema. All of which can seriously affect their QoL.1

Heart Failure Warning Signs and Symptoms. Credit: American Heart Association

In a press release issued yesterday, the study’s corresponding author, Dr Fernando E. Figueroa, Universidad de Los Andes, commented: “We are encouraged by our findings because they could pave the way to a non-invasive, promising new therapy for a group of patients who face grim odds.”

The therapeutic potential of other stem cells (bone marrow-derived) has previously been assessed2,3,4 however, until now, those derived from the umbilical cord had not been investigated. An advantage of umbilical cord-derived stem cells is that they are widely available and their use does not raise ethical concerns, in contrast to embryonic stem cells.

Study Design

The Phase I/II, randomized, double-blind trial was designed to determine the safety and clinical effectiveness of umbilical cord mesenchymal cells (ucMSC) transplanted by intravenous infusion in patients with HF. Patients diagnosed with stable heart failure, who were receiving optimal drug therapy, between the ages of 18–75 years were eligible for the trial. Thirty patients were randomized 1:1 to receive either ucMSC or placebo, intravenously.5

Study Results and Future Direction

No acute adverse events were associated with the infusion of allogenic ucMSC or placebo. In addition, there was no alloantibody development, which is commonly associated with transplantation and transfusion. Administration of ucMSC resulted in a significant improvement in left ventricular function increasing the heart’s ability to pump oxygenated blood to the body’s tissues. Daily functional status and QoL also improved.5 These findings suggest ucMSC could positively influence clinical outcome, an encouraging step towards further clinical studies and ultimately a potential new treatment.


1. Ziaeian, B., & Fonarow, G. C. (2016). Epidemiology and aetiology of heart failure. Nature Reviews Cardiology, 13(6), 368-378. doi:10.1038/nrcardio.2016.25
2. Jeevanantham, V., Butler, M., Saad, A., Abdel-Latif, A., Zuba-Surma, E. K., & Dawn, B. (2012). Adult Bone Marrow Cell Therapy Improves Survival and Induces Long-Term Improvement in Cardiac Parameters: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Circulation, 126(5), 551-568. doi:10.1161/circulationaha.111.086074
3. Hare, J. M., Fishman, J. E., Gerstenblith, G., Velazquez, D. L., Zambrano, J. P., Suncion, V. Y., . . . Heldman, A. W. (2012). Comparison of Allogeneic vs Autologous Bone Marrow–Derived Mesenchymal Stem Cells Delivered by Transendocardial Injection in Patients With Ischemic Cardiomyopathy. Jama, 308(22), 2369. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.25321
4. Mathiasen, A. B., Qayyum, A. A., Jørgensen, E., Helqvist, S., Fischer-Nielsen, A., Kofoed, K. F., . . . Kastrup, J. (2015). Bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stromal cell treatment in patients with severe ischaemic heart failure: a randomized placebo-controlled trial (MSC-HF trial). European Heart Journal, 36(27), 1744-1753. doi:10.1093/eurheartj/ehv136
5. Jorge Bartolucci, J., Verdugo, F. J., González, P. L., Larrea, R. E., Abarzua, E., Goset, C., . . . Khoury, M. (2017). Safety and Efficacy of the Intravenous Infusion of Umbilical Cord Mesenchymal Stem Cells in Patients With Heart Failure:  A Phase 1/2 Randomized Controlled Trial paper. http://dx.doi.org/10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.117.310712