Health In Focus
  • Cardiosphere-derived cells (CDC) promote the regeneration of cardiac cells
  • Scientists carried out a study in rats to test the effects of the cells on the aging heart
  • The cells appeared to rejuvenate the aging cardiac muscle

Can an older heart get younger? Scientists have found that cardiac stem cells obtained from the hearts of young rats can rejuvenate the hearts of old rats. They published their research in the European Heart Journal.

Conditions like heart attacks weaken the heart in due course. They can result in heart failure, where the pumping action of the heart reduces. Severe cases need heart transplantation; unfortunately, with the lack of adequate facilities and donors, and the high costs, heart transplantation is often near to impossible, especially in India. Therefore, other options are being evaluated for the treatment of heart disease. Using cardiosphere-derived cells (CDC) is one of them.
Cardiosphere-derived Cells (CDC) Improve Heart Function in Aging Rats

Cardiosphere-derived cells (CDC) are cells that have been prepared from cardiac stem cells. They have a power of regeneration, that is, they can promote the growth of new heart cells. The cells do not become a part of the heart but secrete tiny vesicles filled with small molecules of chemicals like cytokines and growth factors that help the cells of the heart to regenerate. The factors reduce the scar formed in the damaged heart, recruit existing stem cells and increase the growth of heart cells and the density of blood vessels in the heart.

In their study, the scientists obtained cardiosphere-derived cells from newborn laboratory rats and introduced them into older rats. They divided the older rats, with an average age of 22 months, into two groups. They measured the baseline heart functions through tests that included blood tests, echocardiogram, treadmill stress test and hemodynamic tests. One group received the cells through intracardiac injections, while the other group received saline injections, and served as a control. The tests were repeated after one month.

The scientists found that:
  • The heart function as well as the structural changes in the heart associated with aging improved in the rats that received the stem cell infusion.
    • The exercise capacity improved by approximately 20 percent. The exercise capacity is directly related to the heart function
    • Cardiac functional parameters like diastolic dysfunction and end-diastolic pressure-volume relationship improved as compared to the rats who received saline injections
    • The cells reduced the thickening of the heart muscle, as demonstrated by echo, and reduced scar tissue, as demonstrated by microscopic examination
  • When the chromosomes in the heart cells were examined, the scientists found that the rats that received the cardiosphere-derived cells had longer telomeres in the cardiac cells.The telomeres are structures at the ends of chromosomes that protect the ends and prevent chromosomes from sticking to each other. Their size normally decreases with age
  • The levels of chemicals that reduce inflammation which included IL-10, IL-1b, and IL-6 reduced and the hair grew faster after shaving in rats that received the cells

If further research on the cardiosphere-derived cells proves successful and the cells are able to rejuvenate an aging heart in humans, the phrase 'Always young at heart' could become a reality, literally!

Reference :
  1. Grigorian-Shamagian L et al. Cardiac and systemic rejuvenation after cardiosphere-derived cell therapy in senescent rats. European Heart Journal (2017),
Source: Medindia

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