Cardiac cell therapy: where we've been, where we are, and where we should be headed

Br Med Bull. 2011;98(1):161-85. doi: 10.1093/bmb/ldr018.


Introduction: Stem cell therapy has emerged as a promising strategy for the treatment of ischemic cardiomyopathy.

Sources of data: Multiple candidate cell types have been used in preclinical animal models and in clinical trials to repair or regenerate the injured heart either directly (through formation of new transplanted tissue) or indirectly (through paracrine effects activating endogenous regeneration).

Areas of agreement: (i) Clinical trials examining the safety and efficacy of bone marrow derived cells in patients with heart disease are promising, but results leave much room for improvement. (ii) The safety profile has been quite favorable. (iii) Efficacy has been inconsistent and, overall, modest. (iv) Tissue retention of cells after delivery into the heart is disappointingly low. (v) The beneficial effects of adult stem cell therapy are predominantly mediated by indirect paracrine mechanisms.

Areas of controversy: The cardiogenic potential of bone marrow-derived cells, the mechanism whereby small numbers of poorly-retained cells translate to measurable clinical benefit, and the overall impact on clinical outcomes are hotly debated. GROWING POINTS/AREAS TIMELY FOR DEVELOPING RESEARCH: This overview of the field leaves us with cautious optimism, while motivating a search for more effective delivery methods, better strategies to boost cell engraftment, more apt patient populations, safe and effective 'off the shelf' cell products and more potent cell types.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult Stem Cells / transplantation
  • Animals
  • Bone Marrow Transplantation / methods
  • Embryonic Stem Cells / transplantation
  • Heart Diseases / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Myoblasts, Skeletal / transplantation
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / transplantation
  • Stem Cell Transplantation / methods*
  • Stem Cell Transplantation / trends