Researchers from the University of Alabama have made a significant advancement in repairing damaged heart cells after a heart attack, using grafted muscle cells to create a repair patch, according to a report published in the journal Circulation Research.
By overexpressing a gene that activates the cell-cycle of the grafted muscle cells, the researches were able to stimulate growth and division above and beyond that of control grafted cells.
Until now, an extremely low amount of engraftment of cardiomyocytes – or cardiac muscle cells – has been a stumbling block in hopes to use grafted cells to repair hearts after a heart attack. Without the successful repair that a graft could potentially offer, the damaged heart is prone to later heart failure and patient death.
In mouse model experiments, the researchers showed that overexpression of the gene CCND2 increased the proliferation of grafted cardiac muscle cells. This led to increased remuscularisation of the heart at the site of the heart attack, a larger graft size, improved cardiac function and decreased size of the dead tissue.
Besides regenerating muscle, the grafted cells also increased new blood vessel formation at the border zone of the sit.. The team used cardiomyocytes that were derived from human stem cells, as they work towards a clinical treatment for human heart attack patients.