Animal study finds embryonic stem cells can repair heart muscle

ine whether implanted ES cells, derived from early embryos, could survive in injured heart muscle and improve cardiac function following heart attack. ES cells are pluripotent, meaning they have the ability to differentiate into many cell types.

To answer these questions, the researchers surgically induced myocardial infarctions in two groups of rats, one which was treated with a culture of ES mouse cells, and one treated with a "sham" culture. Prior to transplantation, the cultured ES cells were "marked" with green fluorescent protein and suspended in a medium. ES cell transplantation was then performed within 30 minutes of the MI induction; injections were made at three separate sites in the heart, one directly where the MI took place, and two in the heart muscle bordering this area. The control group of rats received an equivalent amount of medium free of ES cells at the same three sites as in the damaged heart.

Six weeks after transplantation, the researchers examined both groups of rats and found that MI damage was reduced in the animals that had been implanted with ES cells. The ES group also showed significant improvement in left ventricular function, or pumping ability. The animals in the control group did not show any improvement.

"Our results demonstrate that the engrafted ES cells survived in damaged heart muscle," says Xiao, who is Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Calculations showed that the number of "marked" cells had successfully replicated, with 7.3 percent growth of the total number of enzymatically isolated single cardiomyocytes. Most important, these cells were now rod-shaped with clear striations that mimicked heart muscle cells.

"These data strongly suggest that cardiogenesis growth of new cardiomyocytes occurred in the damaged heart muscle following ES cell transplantation," says Xiao. Measurements of the heart's left ventricular systolic pressure and diastolic pressure which reflect the heart

Contact: Jerry Berger
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

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