Stem cells, when transplanted into mouse embryos, have been found to halt or reverse cardiac injury after heart attack in adulthood, according to a new study.
The researchers involved in the study delivered embryonic stem cells to mouse embryos in the earliest stages of development, and found that the resulting mice demonstrated a capacity to recover from cardiac injury in adulthood.
The study provides the first evidence that preventive regenerative medicine can successfully be used to treat myocardial infarction through prophylactic intervention.
Led by Dr. Andre Terzic of the Mayo Clinic, researchers injected mouse embryos with embryonic stem cells that had been used to successfully treat ischemic heart disease following heart attack.
The resulting animals incorporated between five and 20 percent of labelled stem cell-derived tissue.
They were born with no apparent abnormalities, and the tested and control groups had similar overall baseline cardiac disease risk profiles and demonstrated similar cardiac performance during the one-year follow-up.
In both the groups, researchers induced cardiac injury by tying off the left anterior artery, causing complete coronary blockage.
It was found that the group that had received the embryonic stem cell treatment recovered cardiac function, while the other group deteriorated, demonstrating ischemic myopathy, myocardial scarring and significant pulmonary congestion, usually seen in the progression towards heart failure.
On the whole, the group treated with stem cells displayed a favourable disease course, with superior exercise workload capacity and stress test performance, as well as increased survival.
"Preemptive stem cell-based intervention in utero thus provides a strategy to engineer tolerance, and prevent incidence of life-threatening organ failure in the adult," said the authors.
They concluded that beyond reconstructive surgery, stem cell transplantation in prenatal development could offer an innovative approach for preventing disease.
The study has been published in Stem Cells.