Purpose of review: Mesenchymal stem cells (or multipotent stromal cells) are emerging as a potent cell type for cardiac cell therapy. This review describes the potential of cardiac mesenchymal stem cell therapy, but also highlights some recently discovered less favorable mesenchymal stem cell characteristics.
Recent findings: Mesenchymal stem cells exert a beneficial effect on cardiac function upon administration to the ischemic myocardium. The mode of action does not seem to involve differentiation into cardiomyocytes and vascular cells. A robust effect on revascularization and remodeling is observed, however, most likely mediated by paracrine factors. Recently identified drawbacks associated with cardiac mesenchymal stem cell therapy include differentiation into unwanted mesenchymal cell types such as osteocytes and adipocytes, the occurrence of cytogenetic instability upon prolonged expansion, and immunization when used in an allogeneic setting.
Summary: The application of mesenchymal stem cells is a novel strategy with therapeutic potential for cardiac repair. Strategies are needed, however, to optimize their therapeutic potential while minimizing their potential clinical risks.