Background: Clinical cardiac cell therapy using autologous somatic stem cells is restricted by age and disease-associated impairment of stem cell function. Juvenile cells possibly represent a more potent alternative, but the impact of patient-related variables on such cell products is unknown. We therefore evaluated the behavior of neonatal cord blood mesenchymal stem cells (CB-MSC) in the presence of serum from patients with advanced heart failure (HF).
Methods: Human serum was obtained from patients with severe HF (n = 21) and from healthy volunteers (n = 12). To confirm the systemic quality of HF in the sera, TNF-α and IL-6 were quantified. CB-MSC from healthy neonates were cultivated for up to 14 days in medium supplemented with 10% protein-normalized human HF or control serum or fetal calf serum (FCS).
Results: All HF sera contained increased cytokine concentrations (IL-6, TNF-α). When exposed to HF serum, CB-MSC maintained basic MSC properties as confirmed by immunophenotyping and differentiation assays, but clonogenic cells were reduced in number and gave rise to substantially smaller colonies in the CFU-F assay. Cell cycle analysis pointed towards G1 arrest. CB-MSC metabolic activity and proliferation were significantly impaired for up to 3 days as measured by MTS turnover, BrdU incorporation and DAPI + nuclei counting. On day 5, however, CB-MSC growth kinetics approached control serum levels, though protein expression of cell cycle inhibitors (p21, p27), and apoptosis marker Caspase 3 remained elevated. Signal transduction included the stress and cytokine-induced JNK and ERK1/2 MAP kinase pathways.
Conclusions: Heart failure temporarily inhibits clonality and proliferation of "healthy" juvenile MSC in vitro. Further studies should address the in vivo and clinical relevance of this finding.