A previously undescribed population of adult human stem cells, derived from bone marrow, is capable of forming three different cell types and of self-renewal.
These cells also appeared to repair the damage caused by a heart attack when they were transplanted into rats, researchers report in the February issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.
“These studies show that stem cells from adult bone marrow are a virtual tool kit for repairing damaged hearts,” senior investigator Dr. Douglas W. Losordo told Reuters Health. “Specifically, these cells can differentiate into all of the essential cellular elements required to restore function in ‘broken’ hearts.”
Losordo, of Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston and colleagues note that transplant of these cells into the heart led to the growth of new heart cells, cells that line the heart and smooth muscle cells.
The transplanted cells also stimulated the growth of heart tissue and prevented the destruction of endangered cells after they were deprived of oxygen.
In light of these findings, the researchers conclude that this new form of cardiac repair may improve the immediate and long-term outcome of patients with heart disease and merits further clinical investigation.