Study finds combination stem cell therapy improves cardiac function

A new study from the Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute (ISCI) at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine finds that combination stem cell therapy, using c-kit+ cardiac stem cells (CSCs) and mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) can significantly enhance cardiac performance in chronic ischemic cardiomyopathy following a heart attack. This is the first time a combination of cells has been used in a large animal pre-clinical trial of established heart failure by researchers at ISCI.

Dr. Joshua Hare, director of Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute, led the study, Synergistic Effects of Combined Cell Therapy for Chronic Ischemic Cardiomyopathy, which was published November 2, 2015 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

“Previous work from our laboratory strongly supported the scientific rationale for cell combination therapy,” says Hare. “Now, as the field is growing, ISCI is showing the benefit of combining multiple types of cells to produce a stronger, more effective treatment option for patients with severe heart damage and heart failure.”

This study centered on large animals three months after experiencing a heart attack. The animals were divided into three cohorts. The first group received transendocardial injections of MSCs, while the second group received a combination of MSCs and cardiac-derived CSCs. The third group acted as a controlled placebo group. Cardiac MRIs were performed to determine cardiac function before and after therapy.

Both groups of cell-treated animals exhibited a significant reduction in scar size. However, the group that received the combination of MSCs and cardiac-derived CSCs also demonstrated increased viable tissue, improved contractile performance, and increased formation of new cardiomyocytes, which contribute to heart repair. The group that received the combination cell therapy continued to show substantial cardiac enhancement for at least three months post treatment.

According to the American Heart Association, 85.6 million Americans are living with some form of heart disease. “This study has the potential to be a turning point for stem cell research,” said Hare. “This is the first time, as scientists, that we are understanding how interactions between multiple cell types can create more effective treatments.” While further testing is needed, these findings establish the safety and efficacy of combination cell-based treatments, taking the next steps in developing stem cell-based therapies for the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease in humans.

About Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute
The Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute (ISCI), founded in 2008 at the University Of Miami Miller School of Medicine, is on the cutting-edge of translating stem cell therapies. ISCI’s goal is to spearhead cell-based therapies for a host of untreatable diseases. Its focus includes research in basic cell biology, hematology, oncology, cardiology, dermatology, diabetes and endocrinology, neurology, orthopaedics, pediatrics, and ethics and science policy. ISCI’s physician-scientists are dedicated to rapidly applying knowledge of stem cell biology to advance therapies for hard-to-treat diseases in an ethical and rigorous manner.

About Dr. Joshua Hare
Joshua Michael Hare, M.D., is the founding director of the Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, chief of the Division of Cardiology, and Louis Lemberg professor of medicine and professor of molecular and cellular pharmacology. Dr. Hare graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and has a medical degree from Johns Hopkins University. He did his residency at Hopkins and fellowships at Hopkins, Harvard University and The Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Dr. Hare was Professor of Medicine and Biomedical Engineering and director of cardiac transplantation at Johns Hopkins, leading their heart failure program, before he joined the faculty at University of Miami.

Dr. Hare is one of the world’s leading pioneers in the use of stem cell therapy to repair damaged hearts. He recently released findings on the first human clinical trial testing a stem-cell based treatment for heart attack patients, which showed the stem cell treated patients had lower rates of cardiac arrhythmias, and had significant improvements in heart, lung and symptom status. His work is widely published and has included recent articles in The New England Journal of Medicine, Nature, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Circulation, and Circulation Research. Dr. Hare is the principal investigator on a National Institutes of Health Specialized Center for Cell-Therapy (SCCT) funded stem cell study for patients with congestive heart failure.