Universal Donor Cells Suitable for Any Patient Who Needs Myocardial Repair

Martha Kerr

November 20, 2006

November 20, 2006 (Chicago) — Repairing a damaged myocardium with "universal donor" cells — using stem cells from an unrelated donor, or even an animal — is approaching clinical trials, after successful results of early trials being conducted at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.


The results were presented here during the American Heart Association 2006 Scientific Sessions by investigator Ray C-J. Chiu, MD, professor of surgery and chair emeritus at McGill University. He said the key has been using marrow stromal cells, which are "uniquely immune tolerant."

Marrow stromal cells, taken from a human male donor, were labeled and injected at multiple sites around an area of infarct in the myocardium of rats with myocardial infarctions.

The stromal cells were observed not only to survive but to differentiate in the rat myocardium. Some of the cells even began to express cardiomyocyte markers, such as troponin-1c and connexin-43, Dr. Chiu reported.

Ejection fraction increased from 35.2% to 43.8% ( P < .001) in the animals. Fractional shortening increased from 15.1% to 17.4% ( P = .04). Ejection fractions and fractional shortening worsened in control animals who received injections of cell-free medium.

Dr. Chiu said the findings "support the feasibility of using marrow stromal cells as 'universal donor' cells for xeno- or allogeneic cell therapy."

Another added benefit: "The cells store well," Dr. Chiu said.

Valetin Fuster, MD, PhD, director of the Weiner Cardiovascuolar Institute and the Davis Center for Cardiovascular Health at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, told Medscape that the application could have particular benefit for the elderly, for whom healthy young donor cells would be much more advantageous than autologous stem cell transplantation.

A word of caution came from Raymond J. Gibbons, MD, FACC, president of the American Heart Association and professor of medicine and director of the Nuclear Cardiology Lab at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. "The results on stem cells have been very mixed," he told Medscape. "Imaging is very frequently used to assess these trials, and they don't always show positive results.... And there is a huge bias in the reporting of results. Negative studies aren't often reported."

AHA 2006 Scientific Sessions: Abstract 2039. Presented November 12 and November 14, 2006.

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