Synthetic stem cells could aid cardiac regeneration

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Scientists have developed a synthetic stem cell platform to aid tissue repair for the treatment of heart failure. Injection of these cells in a mouse model of myocardial infarction led to enhancement of cardiac functions similar to cardiac stem cell therapy.

Heart disease remains the number one cause of death in developed countries. Myocardial infarction causes the death of billions of cardiomyocytes and can further develop into heart failure.

Regenerative cell-based therapy offers an effective and promising strategy for the treatment of heart failure. However, the risks associated with stem cell transplantation, including immunogenicity and tumorigenicity, have urged researchers to identify alternative strategies to aid tissue repair.

In the present study, Prof. Ke Cheng and team of North Carolina State University developed a synthetic cell-mimicking microparticle (CMMP) that carried similar secreted proteins and membranes like cardiac stem cells. When these cells were tested in vitro, they promoted the growth of cardiac muscle cells and recapitulated stem cell functions like cardiac stem cells. Injection of CMMPs in a mouse model of myocardial infarction led to preservation of viable myocardium and enhancement of cardiac functions similar to cardiac stem cell therapy. Due to its structure, CMMP cannot replicate, thus reducing the risk of tumor formation. The study was published in Nature Communications.

According to the authors, these synthetic stem cells are much more durable than human stem cells, and can tolerate harsh freezing and thawing. They also don’t have to be derived from the patient’s own cells and the manufacturing process can be used with any type of stem cell.

Prof. Cheng commented: “The synthetic cells operate much the same way a deactivated vaccine works. Their membranes allow them to bypass the immune response, bind to cardiac tissue, release the growth factors and generate repair, but they cannot amplify by themselves. So you get the benefits of stem cell therapy without risks. We are hoping that this may be a first step toward a truly off-the-shelf stem cell product that would enable people to receive beneficial stem cell therapies when they’re needed, without costly delays.”

Source: Synthetic Stem Cells Could Offer Therapeutic Benefits, Reduced Risks. Press Release