Stem cell therapy revives cardiac muscle damaged during heart attacks

Stem cell treatment can reverse the damage to cardiac muscles caused by a heart attack, according to new research.

A team from the Mayo Clinic found that special cells derived from adult bone marrow target damaged proteins to remedy the changes inflicted upon the organ during myocardial infarction.

These results, published March 12 in NPJ Regenerative Medicine, may prove highly beneficial for stem cell researchers and left an outsized impact on Mayo’s Director for Regenerative Medicine.

"While we anticipated that the stem cell treatment would produce a beneficial outcome, we were surprised how far it shifted the state of diseased hearts away from disease and back toward a healthy, pre-disease state," Andre Terzic, MD, PhD, who is also the senior author of the study, said in a statement. “This study sheds light on the most intimate, yet comprehensive, regenerative mechanisms, paving a road map for responsible and increasingly informed stem cell application," he added later.

For their study, Terzic and colleagues analyzed the hearts of mice that received cardiopoietic stem cell therapy as well as those that did not. They used an algorithmic approach to map the proteins in the heart muscle, identifying 4,000 proteins. Ten percent of these were damaged during a heart attack.

The investigators found that the therapy either fully or partially reversed two-thirds of the changes caused by the event. And about 85% of “cellular functional categories” impacted by infarction responded positively to treatment, the authors wrote. They also noted that new blood vessels and heart tissue began to grow as a result of the intervention.

In the United States, someone has a heart attack every 40 seconds, according to the study, which kills this precious cardiac tissue and leads to a significantly weaker heart. Although cardiopoietic stem cells are still being investigated in advanced clinical trials in human patients, this most recent study is a big step in the right direction.

“The current findings will enrich the base of knowledge pertinent to stem cell therapies and may have the potential to guide therapeutic regimens in the future," Terzic concluded.