In lab tests, the new cells were able to beat for up to 40 days in a dish, and when injected into rat hearts they stayed in place for up to six days. Obviously that still leaves a lot of room for improvement, but it’s a promising start.
“To truly mend broken hearts, it is important that stem cells are delivered in a way that allows them to survive within their new environment and turn into heart muscle cells,” says Daniel Stuckey, lead researcher on the study. “Our technology provides a new way of ensuring that the cells injected into the heart are working as they should. We hope this research will give us the information essential for making stem cell therapy a realistic treatment for people with heart disease.”
Other recent research has tackled the problem of repairing damaged hearts by using things like cardiac progenitor cells, placental stem cells, stem cell “messengers” called exosomes, or healing cells in the fluid around the heart, while some have reprogrammed structural cells into ones that beat.
The new research was presented at the British Cardiovascular Society Conference.