Cell therapies are thought to have great promise as a way to help repair damaged tissue that will not normally regenerate to any great degree. When it comes to the heart, and following nearly two decades of stem cell and other therapies tested in trials and via medical tourism, the research community is still in search of a reliable, highly effective methodology. Work in the laboratory continues, and researchers have recently reported improvement in heart function following heart attack in Southern pig-tailed macaques.
The approach used here involves generating a sizable cell population of cardiomyocytes, heart muscle cells, from embryonic stem cells. Those cells are then introduced into the heart directly, where a large enough proportion of them survive to produce long term reconstruction and some gain in function – not yet a path back to normal, but better than the alternative. The survival of the transplanted cells is the key to effective regenerative therapies: approaches using patches of lab-grown heart tissue in which there is sizable survival of cells following transplantation have also shown promise in heart repair. First generation stem cell therapies are less effective and reliable when it comes to tissue regrowth precisely because