Stem cell that helps repair mice hearts is identified

21st May 2015

Scientists in the UK have used stem cell therapy to help mice recover from heart attacks and stop them developing heart failure.

The research, being carried out at Imperial College London, has been published in Nature Communications.

“We have found stem cells in the heart that have a specific protein – called PDGFR alpha – which on their surface have the greatest potential to repair damaged hearts,” said Prof Michael Schneider, one of the authors of the study.

Stem cellsThe researchers will now try to establish if the human heart has similar heart-repairing stem cells to those found by this method in mice. Stem cells are young cells that are able to transform into specialised cells in the body.

Heart tissue is damaged when it is deprived of blood during a heart attack and can lead to heart failure, when the heart is unable to pump sufficient blood to meet the body’s needs.

Prof Schneider added: “When we injected stem cells with this protein into damaged hearts, we saw a significant level of heart repair. Now that we know which stem cells to use, we want to find their equivalent in human hearts for more efficient heart repair and regeneration after heart attacks.”

The potential of PDGFR alpha to heal the heart had been identified in several scientific papers in the past decade bit it is still a long way from human trials.

“Future treatments could be injections of stem cells, as in our current experiments, or use of the healing proteins that these cells make,” Prof Schneider said.

At present there are more than 20 stem cell human trials going on, including looking at treatment for dilated cardiomyopathy. But none has been approved by the US regulator the FDA or the European Medicines Agency for general use.