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New strategies for cell therapy to regenerate damaged heart

Research undertaken at the Center for Applied Medical Research (CIMA) and the University Hospital of Navarra has shown that, in animal models, stem cells derived from bone marrow and adipose tissue enhance heart function after a cardiac attack.

In concrete, bone marrow cells act on the damaged tissue, while fatty cells have the ability to transform themselves into both blood vessels and cardiac cells. The results obtained with rats are maintained over a long time period, explained biochemist Mr Manuel Mazo, principal researcher. When a person suffers a heart attack, the artery feeding the heart is obstructed The affected tissue dies and the scar tissue left des not contract. It is a serious problem as cardiac muscle does not regenerate, with grave consequences for the functional capacity of the heart, a situation which can trigger heart failure, explained the scientist. Mortality for cardiovascular diseases Myocardial arrest is a pathology which has one of the highest rates worldwide. In fact, the overall number of cardiovascular illnesses represents 50% of deaths in Europe, according to the world Health Organisation. For a decade now they have been investigating new strategies of genic therapy and cell therapy that enable the repopulation of the scar tissue in the heart in order to regenerate it. In the opinion of Dr. Manuel Mazo, the data obtained at CIMA suggest that this procedure has a highly important potential in its clinical application. This is why the effects which are being achieved have to be improved in both animal models as well as in other, multicentre clinical trials. In this way, the future of the research is focused on combining cell therapy and bioengineering, in such a way that genetically modified cells surviving from adverse conditions in the heart are available.