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Cardiac stem cells from heart disease patients potentially harmful

Tel Aviv University researchers discover molecular pathway that may be involved in toxic interaction between the immune system and host cells.

By Amy Wallace
Cardiac stem cells from heart disease patients potentially harmful
Researchers at Tel Aviv University have discovered cardiac stem cells from heart disease patients may do more harm than good. Photo by ronstik/Shutterstock

June 15 (UPI) -- A new study by Tel Aviv University has found that cardiac stem cell therapy from cardiovascular disease patients may be harmful to patients.

"We found that, contrary to popular belief, tissue stem cells derived from sick hearts do not contribute to heart healing after injury," Jonathan Leor, professor at TAU's Sackler Faculty of Medicine and Sheba Medical Center, said in a press release. "Furthermore, we found that these cells are affected by the inflammatory environment and develop inflammatory properties. The affected stem cells may even exacerbate damage to the already diseased heart muscle."

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Physicians use stem cell therapy, the process of taking tissue or adult stem cells to act as a repair kit for the body by replacing damaged tissue to spur the regeneration of blood vessel cells and new heart muscle tissue.

"But our findings suggest that stem cells, like any drug, can have adverse effects," Leor said. "We concluded that stem cells used in cardiac therapy should be drawn from healthy donors or be better genetically engineered for the patient."

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In the study, published in the June edition of Circulation, researchers found that the molecular pathway involved in the negative interaction of stem cells and the body's immune system when they isolated stem cells in mouse models of heart disease.

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"We showed that the deletion of the gene responsible for this pathway can restore the original therapeutic function of the cells," Leor said. "Our findings determine the potential negative effects of inflammation on stem cell function as they're currently used. The use of autologous stem cells from patients with heart disease should be modified. Only stem cells from healthy donors or genetically engineered cells should be used in treating cardiac conditions."

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