JUL 05, 2018 6:21 AM PDT

Stem Cell Treatment Restores Failing Macaque Monkey Hearts

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

A new way to prevent heart attack from turning into heart failure relies on heart cells made from human embryonic stem cells. For now, researchers are testing the treatment in macaque monkeys, whose hearts are similar to human hearts in size and function.

Stem cell-derived human cardiomyocytes (green) integrated into the scarred area (blue) of a heart wall (red). Credit: Xiulan Yang/Murry Lab

The next step? Use the same approach to treat human heart failure, the leading cause of death for both men and women worldwide. Nearly seven million Americans are currently living with heart failure.

In humans, heart tissue damaged by heart disease does not regenerate. Instead, it is replaced with scar tissue cells, called fibroblasts. Scientists have long been researching stem cells and regenerative organisms like zebrafish, looking for a way to make new human heart muscle cells (cardiomyocytes) as a way to better treat heart disease.

"Our findings show that human embryonic stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes can re-muscularize infarcts in macaque monkey hearts and, in doing so, reduce scar size and restore a significant amount of heart function," explained senior project leader Charles Murry. "This should give hope to people with heart disease."

The study began with induced heart attacks in macaque monkeys, effectively reducing their left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) to cause heart failure. LVEF describes how much blood the heart can pump out with each heartbeat. After the experimental heart attacks, the monkeys’ LVEF decreased from 65 percent to 40 percent.

Two weeks later, researchers injected heart cells grown from human embryonic stem cells into the scar tissue of an experimental group of failing monkey hearts, with each receiving nearly 750 million cells. A control group received the solution the heart cells were in but not the cells themselves.

Four weeks after treatment, LVEF improved and continued to improve in the experimental group but not in the control group, and MRI scans showed that new heart muscle had grown in the experimental group.

The heart cells derived from human embryonic stem cells had formed new muscle tissue in the area of the heart damaged by the induced heart attack, mixing in with the natural, surrounding healthy tissue and replacing 10-29 percent of the scar tissue.

The ideal for the future is that, based on these findings, researchers can develop a one-time only treatment that could be given to people quickly after a heart attack to prevent heart failure.

The present study was published in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

Source: University of Washington Health Sciences/UW Medicine

About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
MAR 28, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
Fish Oil Benefits May Depend on a Person's Genetics
MAR 28, 2021
Fish Oil Benefits May Depend on a Person's Genetics
The benefits of fish oil have been debated for years. New research can explain why it's been difficult to reach a solid ...
APR 01, 2021
Health & Medicine
Flavanol-rich Foods Protect Heart from Stress
APR 01, 2021
Flavanol-rich Foods Protect Heart from Stress
Drinking hot cocoa is comforting on cold winter nights, and new research from the University of Birmingham shows that it ...
APR 27, 2021
Cardiology
New miRNAs Might Help Diagnose Severe Dilated Cardiomyopathy
APR 27, 2021
New miRNAs Might Help Diagnose Severe Dilated Cardiomyopathy
The heart is one of the most reliable parts of the body. It pumps day and night, delivering fresh oxygen and nutrients t ...
MAY 12, 2021
Cannabis Sciences
Cannabis Users with Heart Disorders More Likely to Die in Hospital
MAY 12, 2021
Cannabis Users with Heart Disorders More Likely to Die in Hospital
Researchers have found that hospitalized cannabis users with arrhythmia, a heart rhythm disorder, are 4.5 times more lik ...
MAY 18, 2021
Immunology
Pizza's (Temporary) Effect on the Immune System
MAY 18, 2021
Pizza's (Temporary) Effect on the Immune System
Too much salt isn’t good for you—we know that it can contribute to elevated blood pressure, cardiovascular a ...
JUN 29, 2021
Cancer
Heart Failure Linked to Increased Cancer Risk
JUN 29, 2021
Heart Failure Linked to Increased Cancer Risk
A study by researchers in Germany suggests that patients with heart failure are more likely to develop cancer than those ...
Loading Comments...