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Stem cell therapy for myocardial repair & regeneration


ESC Congress 2003

Heart attack and the resulting heart failure is still one of the leading causes of death in the western world. Therefore, new theraepeutical approaches to restore damaged heart tissue are indispensable. Prof. Hescheler’s research group has been working with murine embryonic stem cells for over 14 years now and was the first group worldwide to obviously measure physiological functions on embryonic stem cells.

Recently his group demonstrated that cardiac precursor cells, especially differentiated out of pluripotent embryonic stem cells and injected in infarcted heart tissue, are able to build up new functioning heart muscle tissue.

Embryonic stem cells can differentiate into nearly 200 different tissues. The main focus in his institute in Cologne is placed on the special development of so called cardiac precursor cells, “fore-runners” of differentiated, adult heart muscle cells. But how can we manage to lead many early embryonic stem cells on a physiological way to become fresh functioning heart cells?

For this reason many molecular biological steps are necessary, including some genetic “tricks”. At first a special protein-promotor is combined, which only works in cardiac precursor cells, with a green fluoescent protein, which stems from an atlantic jellyfish. If a cardiac precursor cell develops, this cell can be identifed by its green colour in the fluorescent microscope.

Furthermore to this “genetic double-construct” a gene is bound, which makes the cardiac precursor cells resistant against special antibiotics. If the antibiotics are then given into the cell suspension, only cardiac precursor cells survive.

In a mouse model a heart-attack-like damage by cryoinfarction is induced and the prepared cells injected into the infarcted area. After two weeks the heart is examined and wonderful green fluorescent tissue can be found, where before only dead material had been.

The physiological engraftment of the cells can be by different investigations such as echocardiography, heart-catheterization and many cellular processes. Even better: a significant benefit in the survival rate of infarcted and then cell-transplanted mice compared to animals without the transplantation can be proven.

Due to the promising results, the same will be performed on human embryonic stem cells. Prof. Hescheler’s group is one of three in Germany, found to be ethically sound and allowed by the government to import human embryonic stem cells for scientific purposes.

Professor Dr. med. Jürgen Hescheler
Institute of Physiology at the University of Cologne, Cologne

Important: This press release accompanies both a presentation and an ESC press conference given at the ESC Congress 2003. Written by the investigator himself/herself, this press release does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the European Society of Cardiology

Camilla Dormer | alfa
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