Stem cell therapies for cardiovascular diseases

There are very few approved stem cell treatments available. The most commonly used stem cell therapy is a bone marrow stem cell transplant to treat blood and immune system disorders and acquired failure of bone marrow.

For more than 50 years physicians have transferred blood stem cells via bone marrow transplantation. In the clinical setting advanced technologies are used for the extraction of blood stem cells. Meanwhile, cord blood is often used as a source for stem cells and is tentatively transplanted as an alternative to bone marrow. Other tissue specific stem cells may also be considered for tissue transplantation which has been performed for a few years now. The stem cells contained in organs and tissue as skin and hard skin can be conducive to a long-term regeneration.

The Reference and Translation Center for Cardiac Stem Cell Therapy (RTC) at the University Clinic of Rostock focuses on research on stem cell therapy for cardiovascular diseases.

Myocardial infarction occurs when the coronary blood vessel is occluded. This is followed by oxygen shortage and restriction in blood supply of the surrounding myocardial tissue such that the tissue dies. The heart is not able to repair the destroyed or injured tissue without enthetic help. At present, the common treatment of myocardial infarction is able to improve the quality and duration of life but can not achieve the heart performance before the myocardial infarction.

An innovative approach of treatment is the intracardiac stem cell therapy. Patients receive autologous stem cells directly injected into the myocardial tissue. There, the stem cells are to foster the regeneration of destroyed or weak tissue.

Today this therapy can be applied to patients with the following indications:

  • after a myocardial infarction, when a bypass surgery is essential,
  • when the pump function of the heart is restricted, as demonstrated by a MRT-test,
  • heart insufficience as a consequence of ischemic heart disease, when the precise location of the destroyed myocardium is known.