Heart failure is a life-threatening disease prevalent worldwide. Cardiac transplantation is the last resort for patients with severe heart failure, but donor shortages represent a critical issue. Cardiac regenerative therapy is beneficial, but it is currently unsuitable as a substitute for cardiac transplantation. Human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) are excellent sources for the generation of terminally differentiated cells. The preparation of a large number of pure cardiomyocytes (CMs) is the major premise for translational studies. To control the quality of the generated CMs, an efficient differentiation method, purification strategy, and mass-scale culture must be developed. Metabolic purification and large-scale culture systems have been established, and pure hiPSC-derived CMs of clinical grade are now available for translational research. The most critical challenge in cell therapy is the engraftment of transplanted cells. To overcome the low engraftment ratio of single CMs, aggregations of CMs are developed as cardiac spheroids. A cardiac transplantation device with domed tips and lateral holes has been developed for the transplantation of cardiac spheroids. Large animal models are necessary as the next step in the process toward clinical application. The transplant device has successfully been used to inject cardiac spheroids uniformly into myocardial layers in swine, and this approach is progressing toward clinical use. Remaining issues include immunological rejection and arrhythmia, which will require further investigation to establish safe and effective transplantation. This review summarizes the present status and future challenges of cardiac regenerative therapies.
Keywords: cardiomyocyte; heart failure; induced pluripotent stem cell; regenerative medicine; translational research.