Implantation of skeletal myoblasts to the heart has been investigated as a means to regenerate and protect the myocardium from damage after myocardial infarction. While several animal studies utilizing skeletal myoblasts have reported positive findings, results from clinical studies have been mixed. In this study we utilize a newly developed bioreducible polymer system to transfect skeletal myoblasts with a plasmid encoding vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) prior to implantation into acutely ischemic myocardium. VEGF has been demonstrated to promote revascularization of the myocardium following myocardial infarction. We report that implanting VEGF expressing skeletal myoblasts into acutely ischemic myocardium produces superior results compared to implantation of untransfected skeletal myoblasts. Skeletal myoblasts expressing secreted VEGF were able to restore cardiac function to non-diseased levels as measured by ejection fraction, to limit remodeling of the heart chamber as measured by end systolic and diastolic volumes, and to prevent myocardial wall thinning. Additionally, arteriole and capillary formation, retention of viable cardiomyocytes, and prevention of apoptosis was significantly improved by VEGF expressing skeletal myoblasts compared to untransfected myoblasts. This work demonstrates the feasibility of using bioreducible cationic polymers to create engineered skeletal myoblasts to treat acutely ischemic myocardium.
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