The Promise of Stem Cell Therapy After Heart Attack

Researchers are making progress in their pursuit of stem cell therapy to minimize damage from acute myocardial infarction (AMI) and hasten healing and recovery, a new review article from investigators at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine reveals.

Joshua Hare, M.D.
Joshua Hare, M.D., sees stem cells as a promising therapy after acute myocardical infarction.

“It’s important to assess where we and other researchers are, address the hurdles we’ve overcome and identify those we still face in order to advance this promising strategy to treat acute myocardial infarction and its aftermath,” said Joshua Hare, M.D., senior study author, Louis Lemberg Professor of Medicine, founding director of the Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute (ISCI) and a heart failure/cardiac transplant cardiologist.

The comprehensive overview of the progress, limitations and applications of cell-based therapy in acute myocardial infarction was published online August 30 in the journal, Expert Opinion on Biological Therapy.

The Promise of Stem Cells for Heart Repair

Investigators know mesenchymal and inducted pluripotent stem cells hold promise for cardiac repair. Delivered intravenously or directly into damaged heart tissue after AMI, these cells can decrease inflammation, engraft and create healthy heart tissue. The goal is to replace damaged tissue before fibrosis sets in and impairs the heart’s ability to fully contract.

Diana Clavellina, M.D., M.Sc., says stem cell therapy may reduce the chance of heart failure after heart attack.

“By using stem cells, we might be able to not only repair the damaged heart tissue but also prevent the heart from deteriorating further, which is a common consequence of a severe heart attack,” said lead author Diana Clavellina, M.D., M.Sc., post-doctoral researcher in the ISCI. “This advancement could significantly reduce the number of people who suffer from heart failure after a heart attack, potentially revolutionizing how we approach treatment for these patients.”

Stem Cells Ideal for Research

Along with co-author Wayne Balkan, Ph.D., Dr. Hare and Dr. Clavellina explain how mesenchymal/stromal stem cells from bone marrow and other tissue, and induced pluripotent stem cells, could play an essential role in regenerative cardiac repair.

These cells are an ideal research target because they have low antigenicity (reducing the risk of immune system rejection), are easy to harvest, and can differentiate into different types of cells to contribute to heart regeneration. Preclinical and clinical studies also support the safety and efficacy of this therapeutic strategy.

The authors note hurdles that remain, including increasing the engraftment success and cell survival. Because the ISCI and Miller School are leaders in this area, the authors also stress the need to standardize definitions and outcomes measures in the field.

“The Hare Lab remains at the forefront of pioneering new therapies in this crucial medical domain. As part of this commitment, we are currently initiating a significant project in collaboration with the prestigious journal series, Frontiers,” Dr. Clavellina said. “The overarching goal is to bring together insights and expertise from notable scientific figures in the aging sector to nurture a multidisciplinary approach.”

Dr. Clavellina envisions a new era of heart care, and points to the preservation of heart function and vitality, post-AMI, as an important goal in optimizing patient wellbeing.

“It’s a challenging road ahead,” she said, “but one filled with hope and the promise of saving countless lives and improving the quality of life for many more.”

Tags: cardiology, Dr. Joshua Hare, Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute, myocardial infarction, stem cell therapies, USNWR Cardiovascular