Background: Bone marrow derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are promising candidates for cell based therapies in myocardial infarction. However, the exact underlying cellular mechanisms are still not fully understood. Our aim was to explore the possible role of direct cell-to-cell interaction between ischemic H9c2 cardiomyoblasts and normal MSCs. Using an in vitro ischemia model of 150 minutes of oxygen glucose deprivation we investigated cell viability and cell interactions with confocal microscopy and flow cytometry.
Results: Our model revealed that adding normal MSCs to the ischemic cell population significantly decreased the ratio of dead H9c2 cells (H9c2 only: 0.85 +/- 0.086 vs. H9c2+MSCs: 0.16 +/- 0.035). This effect was dependent on direct cell-to-cell contact since co-cultivation with MSCs cultured in cell inserts did not exert the same beneficial effect (ratio of dead H9c2 cells: 0.90 +/- 0.055). Confocal microscopy revealed that cardiomyoblasts and MSCs frequently formed 200-500 nm wide intercellular connections and cell fusion rarely occurred between these cells.
Conclusion: Based on these results we hypothesize that mesenchymal stem cells may reduce the number of dead cardiomyoblasts after ischemic damage via direct cell-to-cell interactions and intercellular tubular connections may play an important role in these processes.