July 10, 2015

Delivering cells for heart repair

A polymer hydrogel material developed by Vanderbilt scientists improved the delivery of stem cells for heart repair.

Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) – stem cells derived from skin or other body cells – offer a promising starting point for generating therapeutic cardiac muscle cells. Introducing iPSC-derived cardiomyocytes into the heart, however, is challenged by significant cell loss.

Charles Hong, M.D., Ph.D., Hak-Joon Sung, Ph.D., and colleagues developed a polymer hydrogel to encapsulate, deliver and integrate iPSC-cardiomyocytes into damaged heart muscle. The investigators derived functional, beating cardiac muscle cells from patient-derived iPSCs and encapsulated the cells in the polymer hydrogel. They used a rat myocardial infarction (heart attack) model to assess engraftment of the hydrogel-encapsulated cells and their impact on heart function and structure.

The researchers found that iPSC-cardiomyocytes in polymer hydrogel were more effective at limiting left ventricular remodeling and preserving cardiac function compared to other treatments, and that the beneficial effects resulted from enhanced cell survival. The findings, reported in the July 1 issue of the International Journal of Cardiology, demonstrate a promising biomaterial-based approach for cell-based heart repair strategies.

This study was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health (HL091465, HL104040) and the National Science Foundation, and by a VA Merit Award.

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