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Heart failure affects 60 million people in the world annually and in Sweden alone, affects 60,000 people.
Heart failure affects people who have had a heart attack in which millions of heart muscle cells have died and been replaced by fibrotic scar tissue. This tissue impairs the heart's ability to pump blood around the body, which can lead to heart failure.
Those who have heart failure may need to take medication for life or undergo a heart transplant. But another promising method is to use cell therapy. Here, a research team from, among others, Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, Technical University of Munich TUM) in Germany and Astra Zeneca has made a breakthrough.
They have investigated whether immature heart muscle cells, human ventricular progenitor cells (HVP), can be used to repair the damaged parts of the heart. They cultured HVP cells from human stem cells to see if the HVP cells could rebuild the muscle function of the heart.
"In laboratory studies, we saw how the HVP cells migrated to damaged regions of the heart where they then matured into healthy functioning heart cells and counteracted the formation of scar tissue. The results represent an important milestone in the work of finding a possible treatment with HVP cells for patients with severe heart failure, especially for the elderly where heart surgery would be a great strain", says Karl-Ludwig Laugwitz, professor of cardiology at TUM and one of the researchers behind the study, in a press release.
The researchers also tested the cells in animal experiments and here too the results were promising.
"The results indicate a unique ability of HVP cells to regenerate heart tissue, reduce scar tissue and improve heart function in pigs with ischemic heart failure. We are encouraged by these results in HVP cell therapy and the possibility of finding new cardiovascular treatments in the future to counteract heart failure injuries", says Regina Fritsche Danielson from Astra Zeneca and another of the researchers behind the study.
The researchers will now move on with more studies and hopefully they will be able to start with clinical studies within the next two years.