Stem Cells Could Help Regenerate Cardiac Tissue

At the Worcester Polytechnic Institute of Technology, researchers have recently found evidence that suggests the possibility that in the future stem cells can be injected into targeted areas of the body to repair diseased or damaged tissue, including the cardiac muscle damaged caused by a heart attack. These findings were published in the online version of the Journal of Biomedical Materials Research.

This technique involves the bundling of biopolymer microthreads into biological sutures out of stem cells. The lead author of the study, Glenn Gaudette, said that, "This technology is developing into a potentially powerful system for delivering therapeutic cells right to where they are needed, whether that's a damaged heart or other tissues."  The team focused their research on finding the ways in which the heart muscle can be healed using cell- based methods to treat cardiac arrhythmias.

In the study, the research team developed protocols to attach stem cells to small bundles of microthreads. Once the stem cells were attached to the threads, they were then cultured for five days which allowed the stem cells to multiply. After seeding and growing, the team attached the micro thread. When the treads were drawn through the gel, the vast majority of stem cells remained alive and attached to the treads.

This suggests that the treads could potentially be sutured into human tissue.
Dr. Gaudette said. "So we believe these results are proof-of-principle - that we can now deliver these cells anywhere a surgeon can place a suture. That's exciting."  The team is already working on the next step, testing the stem cell-seeded microthreads in to rats to see if they can engraft into heart tissue to improve cardiac function.

Michael Cohen
Worcester Polytechnic Institute


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