Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Microspheres for cell delivery

Myocardial infarction (MI) constitutes the leading cause of death in Europe. Researchers developed novel microspheres as therapeutic vehicles to deliver cells at the infarcted site.
Microspheres for cell delivery
MI causes fibrotic scar formation and impaired cardiac function. Heart transplantation is often the only solution but the shortage of organ donors and the complications associated with immune suppressive treatments necessitate alternative strategies.

Stem cell therapy is emerging as a promising approach to regenerate cardiac tissue following MI. However, attempts so far have failed due to various factors namely the harsh microenvironment, the death of the injected cells that fail to localise to the tissue and the myocardial contractions. Massive cell loss has rendered cell therapy ineffective so far.

The scope of the EU-funded STEM CELLS COCOONING (Stem cell cocooning for targeted cardiac cell therapy) project was to enhance the efficacy of cell therapy by cocooning bone marrow stem cells in bioengineered collagen-based microspheres. The rationale was that the cocoon would provide the appropriate support for cell survival, promote better engraftment of the cells onto the heart tissue, and protect the cells from the harsh post-MI environment.

In this context, researchers generated hybrid microspheres from collagen and alginate and tested their capacity to support various cell types including porcine arterial endothelial cells, induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) and cardiomyocytes. Microsphere formulation, size and shape were determined using a mathematical modelling approach and manipulated through air-flow rate, collagen to alginate ratio, and air-gap distance.

In vivo testing in animals demonstrated cell viability for up to five days, providing a good therapeutic window for the treatment of MI. Microspheres were also well-tolerated with no adverse immune responses. Furthermore, scientists encapsulated fibroblast growth factor (FGF-2) in the microspheres, which was released in a controlled manner and enhanced vascularisation.

Collectively, the STEM CELLS COCOONING approach addresses the issue of heart regeneration through a method that combines cell delivery and bioengineered materials. The biomechanical support for efficient cell delivery together with the biodegradable porous scaffold for cell support and engraftment pave the way towards heart rehabilitation.

Related information


Microsphere, myocardial infarction, stem cell therapy, collagen, FGF-2
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