In this in vitro study we induced ischemic injury on H9c2 rat cardiomyoblasts using the oxygen-glucose deprivation model (OGD). We monitored if the addition of healthy or mitochondria-depleted cells can save OGD treated cells from post-ischemic injury. We were able to significantly improve the surviving cell number of oxidatively damaged H9c2 cells by the addition of healthy cells to the culture. On the contrary, cells with disturbed mitochondria did not increase the number of surviving cells. High-resolution confocal time-lapse imaging also proved that mitochondria are drifting from cell-to-cell through tunneling membrane bridges, however, they do not get into the cytoplasm of the other cell. We conclude that addition of healthy cells to severly injured post-ischemic cardiomyoblasts can rescue them from death during the first 24h after reoxigenation. Grafted cells must maintain their mitochondria in an actively respiring state, and although cell contact is required for the mechanism, neither cell fusion nor organelle transfer occurs. This novel mechanism opens a new possiblity for cell-based cardiac repair in ischemic heart disease.
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