Rationale: Two categories of cardiac stem cells (CSCs) with predominantly myogenic (mCSC) and vasculogenic (vCSC) properties have been characterized in the human heart. However, it is unknown whether functionally competent CSCs of both classes are present in the myocardium of patients affected by end-stage cardiac failure, and whether these cells can be harvested from relatively small myocardial samples.
Objective: To establish whether a clinically relevant number of mCSCs and vCSCs can be isolated and expanded from endomyocardial biopsies of patients undergoing cardiac transplantation or left ventricular assist device implantation.
Methods and results: Endomyocardial biopsies were collected with a bioptome from the right side of the septum of explanted hearts or the apical LV core at the time of left ventricular assist device implantation. Two to 5 biopsies from each patient were enzymatically dissociated, and, after expansion, cells were sorted for c-kit (mCSCs) or c-kit and KDR (vCSCs) and characterized. mCSCs and vCSCs constituted 97% and 3% of the c-kit population, respectively. Population doubling time averaged 27 hours in mCSCs and vCSCs; 5×10(6) mCSCs and vCSCs were obtained in 28 and 41 days, respectively. Both CSC classes possessed significant growth reserve as documented by high telomerase activity and relatively long telomeres. mCSCs formed mostly cardiomyocytes, and vCSCs endothelial and smooth muscle cells.
Conclusions: The growth properties of mCSCs and vCSCs isolated from endomyocardial biopsies from patients with advanced heart failure were comparable to those obtained previously from larger myocardial samples of patients undergoing elective cardiac surgery.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00893360.