Myocardial infarction (MI), commonly known as heart attack, results from the interruption of blood supply (ischaemia) to a part of the heart, causing death (infarction) of heart muscle tissue (myocardium). Since the damage to the myocardium is irreversible, the regeneration of cardiac myocytes has become a quantum challenge in the treatment of cardiac diseases. Recently, the potential of stem cells for the treatment of myocardial infarction or other chronic heart diseases has been suggested. The need to study cardiac myocyte differentiation of stem cells for myocardial repair initiated a European consortium within the EU-funded programme, ‘Application and process optimization of human stem cells for myocardium repair’ (SC&CR). SC&CR researchers aimed to optimise and validate the use of stem cells in cardiac diseases, and develop effective protocols for their production, isolation and expansion. The team elucidated the functional properties of stem cell-derived cardiac myocytes, providing significant insights into the molecular pathways involved in cardiac differentiation. Furthermore, the SC&CR scientists unveiled information on specific signals that trigger stem cell proliferation, survival and allocation into the damaged myocardium. In the final stage of the project, the safety of autologous administration of bone marrow-derived cells in patients suffering chronic ischaemic disease was determined. The results of SC&CR will substantially facilitate the efforts towards the prevention and treatment of myocardial infarction, one of the major causes of mortality and morbidity in Europe. In the long run, they will contribute to a better quality of life and health costs in all western countries.
Application and process optimization of human stem cells for myocardium reapair
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3 August 2022