Written by sciencedaily.com Thursday, 09 December 2010 16:03
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has demonstrated the feasibility of a novel technology that a surgeon could use to deliver stem cells to targeted areas of the body to repair diseased or damaged tissue, including cardiac muscle damaged by a heart attack. The technique involves bundling biopolymer microthreads into biological sutures and seeding the sutures with stem cells. The team has shown that the adult bone-marrow-derived stem cells will multiply while attached to the threads and retain their ability to differentiate and grow into other cell types.
The results are reported in the Journal of Biomedical Materials Research.
“We’re pleased with the progress of this work,” said Glenn Gaudette, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at WPI and lead author on the paper. “This technology is developing into a potentially powerful system for delivering therapeutic cells right to where they are needed, whether that’s a damaged heart or other tissues.”
Gaudette’s lab is focused on cardiac function, exploring ways to heal damaged heart muscle and to develop cell-based methods to treat cardiac arrhythmias. Much of this work uses human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs), which come from the bone marrow and can grow into a range of other tissues in the body, including muscle, bone, and fat. Studies by Gaudette and others have shown that when hMSCs are delivered to damaged hearts, they moderately improve cardiac function. A major challenge in these studies, however, is getting sufficient numbers of the hMSCs to engraft into the damaged heart tissue. Prior methods of injecting the cells into the bloodstream, or directly into the heart muscle, have yielded low results, with 15 percent or less of the cells injected actually surviving and attaching to the heart muscle. Most of the hMSCs delivered by injection are washed away by the bloodstream.