Intense research is under way to determine the optimal stem cell type and regimen for repairing diseased myocardium. Although initial studies in humans focused on the use of homologous stem cells, allogeneic or xenogeneic stem cells have been studied extensively in experimental work. Clinical trials with allogeneic stem cells are now under way, an approach based on the premise that stem cells and precursor cells are characterized as being immunotolerant. However, evidence indicates that stem cells may gain immune potency in vivo, especially when delivered to inflamed tissue, such as acutely infarcted myocardium. Histopathologic studies show the presence of a lymphohistiocytic inflammatory reaction at the sites of delivery of allogeneic stem cells, a response that is exaggerated with the use of xenogeneic stem cells. The immune-mediated inflammatory reaction to allogeneic and xenogeneic stem cells may elicit a spectrum of effects, ranging from beneficial (e.g., increased paracrine activity) to detrimental (e.g., accelerated damage and removal of stem cells). Although the issue of immune-mediated inflammatory responses to non-self stem cells requires further evaluation, non-self stem cells should not be considered as immunologically inert or exclusively immunosuppressive in vivo.
2010 American College of Cardiology Foundation. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.