When a myocardial infarction occurs, the heart’s muscle cells are replaced by scar tissue. The subsequent damage to the heart impairs its pumping action and leaves the patient with a risk of heart failure. The current treatment either involves a balloon catheter or a bypass operation in combination with drugs. Karl-Henrik Grinnemo, research scientist at Karolinska Institutet and specialist heart surgeon at Karolinska University Hospital has studied how stem cells could provide an alternative treatment method. His results are presented in a new doctoral thesis.
Dr Grinnemo has examined three types of stem cell and their ability to develop into myocardial cells and to affect heart function after an attack. He also looked more closely at rejection response. The three cell types were human mesenchymal stem cells, which are found in the bone marrow; human embryonic stem cells; and finally a kind of embryonic heart muscle cell, which can be found in the heart of foetuses but which must be cultivated from aborted foetuses as they disappear after birth.
“It’s these foetal cells that seem to be best at repairing damaged hearts,” says Mr Grinnemo. “We have cultivated them and made them form accumulations of spontaneously beating heart muscle cells, and have transplanted them with stable results into mice hearts.”
Dr Grinnemo hopes that he can soon begin clinical studies on heart attack patients with this type of stem cell. He also plans to conduct a study on mesenchymal stem cells.
Thesis: Cell transplantation with human mesenchymal or embryonic stem cells to the heart: Experimental, molecular, immunological and echocardiographic studies by Karl-Henrik Grinnemo, Institutionen för klinisk vetenskap, intervention och teknik.