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California Institute for Regenerative Medicine to fund stem cell research at Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute

Studies seek stem cell therapies for heart attacks, heart failure and pacing disorders

The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) has awarded a planning grant to the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute to support its researchers in their study of regenerative stem cell-based approaches to heart attacks, congestive heart failure and pacing abnormalities.

Cedars-Sinai research teams are currently conducting stem cell studies in several disciplines – often using stem cells derived from bone marrow and other sources in the body – but this is the first funding the medical center has received from CIRM, which was established in 2005 to fund stem cell research at California research institutions. The grant is to be applied toward planning and developing upcoming studies.

The grant was awarded to Eduardo Marbán, M.D., Ph.D., a world-renowned stem cell researcher and cardiologist who joined Cedars-Sinai last year as the founding director of its Heart Institute. Building on Cedars-Sinai’s decades-long strengths in cardiology, cardiac surgery and cardiac imaging, the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute integrates state-of-the-art research in heart disease and prevention with one of the nation’s highest-quality patient-care programs.

In studies scheduled to begin at Cedars-Sinai later this year, autologous (derived from patients themselves) stem cells will be used to treat heart attack and heart failure. Studies in these areas are advanced and are expected to provide clinical results within a few years. The goal is to have stem cells providing healthy new heart cells to replace those damaged by disease.
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For the development of “biological pacemakers,” the researchers will be studying whether human embryonic stem cells can be engineered to become heart pacing cells that could be implanted to actually restore a heart’s natural rhythm, even responding to varying demands – something artificial pacemakers can’t do. The complex process of creating biological pacemakers appears feasible in laboratory work but needs to progress through years of development and preclinical trials before being approved for human studies.

Sandy Van |
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