Stem Cell Therapy Could Help Heart Attack Recovery

New research on mononuclear diploid cardiomyocyte, or MNDCM, a type of regenerative heart muscle cell, shows promise for patients recovering from a heart attack.

Previous research has shown that newborn mammals have a plethora of these MNDCM cells, which help them regenerate heart muscle tissue when damage occurs. However, adult mammals show a serious decrease in the number of these heart cells, which makes them less capable of muscle regeneration if they suffer a heart attack or other injury to the heart.

When researchers looked at MNDCM in adult mice, they found that the concentration of MNDCM varied, meaning some of the mice’s hearts were much more prepared to regenerate heart muscle in the case of an injury than others. The counts ranged from only 1.9 percent of heart muscle cells to 10 percent. A method called genome-wide association led the researchers to discover that the key genes Tnni3k could be blocked in mice to produce a higher concentration of MNDCM and therefore increase the ability to regenerate heart muscles after injury.

Heart Disease is the No. 1 Cause of Death in the United States

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 610,000 Americans die every year from heart disease. In addition, 735,000 Americans suffer a heart attack each year. Heart attacks can cause a permanent loss of heart muscle cells, said Dr. Ahvie Herskowitz, founder of San Francisco Stem Cell Treatment Center and Anatara Medicine.

“Stem cells respond to injury in the body in an effort to heal it,” he said. “When the heart has been damaged, the signal that alerts stem cells that healing is needed can be damaged as well. When the heart tissue is damaged in this way, the heart can have trouble contracting and moving blood, which can lead to heart failure.”

Herskowitz performs stem cell therapy at his practice in San Francisco to help give patients a chance at healing with myocardial regeneration.

Promise of Stem Cell Therapy for Heart Failure 

A study presented at the 65th Annual Scientific Session of the American College of Cardiology showed marked progress in using stem cells to help improve the outcome for patients with severe heart failure. In the study, 109 patients were randomly set into two groups. One received a placebo and the other group received stem cell therapy. The therapy involved extracting stem cells from each patient’s own bone marrow, increasing the number of beneficial stem cells via a two-week process, and then injecting the stem cells directly into the patient’s heart muscle. It was a phase two trial for a new stem cell therapy called ixmyelocel-T.

The results showed that of the participants who received the stem cell therapy, 3.4 percent died, while 13.7 percent of the placebo group died. In addition, only 37.9 percent of the stem cell therapy group was hospitalized again for cardiovascular problems down the road, while 49 percent of the placebo group were eventually hospitalized. Researchers said the next step is to conduct trials on a larger sample group after the promising results seen in this study.