Breaking Research

Adult stem cell research targets damaged hearts

Research scientist and cardiovascular researcher Gen Suzuki

Research scientist and cardiovascular researcher Gen Suzuki. (Photo: Douglas Levere, BA ’89)

A UB specialist in stem cell biology has received a $1.98 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to investigate the potential of bone marrow– derived adult stem cells to treat the serious heart malfunction known as hibernating myocardium.

Hibernating myocardium is a condition in which heart cells that have experienced reduced blood flow over an extended period of time due to narrowed coronary arteries adapt to this deprivation by down-regulating metabolism while remaining functionally viable.

Previous work in UB’s Center for Cardiovascular Research employing the center’s novel swine model of hibernating myocardium has shown that restoring normal blood flow to these “hibernating” regions improves function. However, these results also found that cells in the left ventricle, the heart’s main pumping chamber, often do not return to normal, leaving the heart compromised.

The new research is headed by Te-Chung Lee, associate professor of biochemistry in the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and an investigator with the cardiovascular research center. Lee and colleagues will use the swine model to investigate whether transplanting the model’s own bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells (MSC)—cells that have the capacity to develop into blood vessels, as well as other types of tissues— into the down-regulated tissue can change the myocardial adaptive responses and improve the function of the hibernating myocardium. “In the long term, the translation between the MSC-based therapy in the porcine hibernating myocardium and regenerative medicine for humans with chronic coronary artery disease will lead to optimized MSC therapeutics that can be of clinical value in managing aging and curing disease,” Lee says.