(RxWiki News) Stem cells could be key in aiding elderly patients with heart failure. Researchers have found that laboratory-modified stem cells may be capable of rejuvenating aged and damaged heart cells.
The modified human stem cells were biopsied from elderly patients, then modified in a lab with PIM-1, a protein that contributes to cell survival and growth.
The finding could help spur new treatments for heart failure.
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Sadia Mohsin, PhD, study author and a post-doctoral research scholar at San Diego State University’s Heart Institute, noted that patients with heart failure are normally elderly, but their cardiac stem cells are not very healthy.
Modifying the collected stem cells made them healthier, similar to turning back a clock so that the heart cells can thrive again, Dr. Mohsin said.
The cells were rejuvenated after the modified stem cells enhanced activity of an enzyme called telomerase, which elongates telomere length. Telomeres act as “caps” on the ends of chromosomes that facilitate cell replication. When telomeres break off, aging and disease occur.
The rejuvenation process resulted in longer telomere length and increased activity, as well as improved cardiac stem cell proliferation, which are needed to fight heart failure.
Researchers previously tested the technique in mice and pigs, finding that telomere length led to new heart growth in four weeks.
However, the current study was confined to human cells in a laboratory.
“Modifying aged human cardiac cells from elderly patients adds to the cell’s ability to regenerate damaged heart muscle, making stem cell engineering a viable option,” Dr. Mohsin said.
“This is an especially exciting finding for heart failure patients. Right now we can only offer medication, heart transplantation or stem cell therapies with modest regenerative potential, but PIM-1 modification offers a significant advance for clinical treatment.”
The study, which was recently presented at the American Heart Association’s Basic Cardiovascular Sciences 2012 Scientific Sessions and simultaneously published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, was funded by the National Institutes of Health.