In a new study, researchers found that a combination of heart cells derived from human stem cells could help develop a desperately-needed treatment for heart failure.
The research was conducted by a team from the University of Cambridge and the University of Washington.
Hundreds of thousands of people in the UK are living with debilitating heart failure, often as a result of a heart attack.
During a heart attack, part of the heart is deprived of oxygen leading to the death of heart muscle.
This permanent loss of heart muscle, as well as subsequent scarring, combines to reduce the heart’s ability to pump blood around the body.
People suffering from heart failure can’t regenerate their damaged hearts and the only cure is a heart transplant.
Scientists have been trying to use stem cells to repair damaged hearts for a number of years.
Efforts have been unsuccessful so far, mainly because the vast majority of transplanted cells die within a few days.
In the study, the team found by transplanting an area of damaged tissue with a combination of both heart muscle cells and supportive cells taken from the outer layer of the heart wall, it is possible to help the organs recover from the damage caused by a heart attack.
They used supportive epicardial cells developed from human stem cells to help transplanted heart cells live longer.
The researchers used 3-D human heart tissue grown in the lab from human stem cells to test the cell combination.
They found that supportive epicardial cells helped heart muscle cells to grow and mature.
They also improved the heart muscle cell’s ability to contract and relax.
In rats with damaged hearts, the combination also allowed the transplanted cells to survive and restore lost heart muscle and blood vessel cells.
The researchers now hope to understand how supportive epicardial cells help to drive heart regeneration.
Understanding these key details will bring them one step closer to testing heart regenerative therapies in clinical trials.
The lead author of the study is Dr. Sanjay Sinha.
The study is published in Nature Biotechnology.
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