Empowering Adult Stem Cells for Myocardial Regeneration

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Abstract

Treatment strategies for heart failure remain a high priority for ongoing research due to the profound unmet need in clinical disease coupled with lack of significant translational progress. The underlying issue is the same whether the cause is acute damage, chronic stress from disease, or aging: progressive loss of functional cardiomyocytes and diminished hemodynamic output. To stave off cardiomyocyte losses, a number of strategic approaches have been embraced in recent years involving both molecular and cellular approaches to augment myocardial structure and performance. Resultant excitement surrounding regenerative medicine in the heart has been tempered by realizations that reparative processes in the heart are insufficient to restore damaged myocardium to normal functional capacity and that cellular cardiomyoplasty is hampered by poor survival, proliferation, engraftment, and differentiation of the donated population. To overcome these limitations, a combination of molecular and cellular approaches must be adopted involving use of genetic engineering to enhance resistance to cell death and increase regenerative capacity. This review highlights biological properties of approached to potentiate stem cell–mediated regeneration to promote enhanced myocardial regeneration, persistence of donated cells, and long-lasting tissue repair. Optimizing cell delivery and harnessing the power of survival signaling cascades for ex vivo genetic modification of stem cells before reintroduction into the patient will be critical to enhance the efficacy of cellular cardiomyoplasty. Once this goal is achieved, then cell-based therapy has great promise for treatment of heart failure to combat the loss of cardiac structure and function associated with acute damage, chronic disease, or aging.

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