Goal 3: Advance Translational Research

Deriving Cardiac Elements from Pluripotent Human embryonic Stem Cells for Heart Reconstitution

to date, the existing markets lack a clinically-suitable human cardiomyocyte source with adequate myocardium regenerative potential, which has been the major setback in developing safe and effective cell-based therapies for regenerating the damaged human heart in cardiovascular disease.

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Is this idea a Compelling Question (CQ) or Critical Challenge (CC)? : Critical Challenge (CC)

Details on the impact of addressing this CQ or CC :

Given the limited capacity of the heart for self-repair or renewal, cell-based therapy represents a promising therapeutic approach closest to provide a cure to restore normal heart tissue and function for CVD. There is no evidence that adult stem/precursor/progenitor cells derived from mature tissues, such as bone marrow, cord blood, umbilical cord, mesenchymal stem cells, patients’ heart tissue, placenta, or fat tissue, are able to give rise to the contractile heart muscle cells following transplantation into the heart. Despite numerous reports about cell populations expressing stem/precursor/progenitor cell markers identified in the adult hearts, the minuscule quantities and growing evidences indicating that they are not genuine heart cells and that they give rise predominantly to non-functional smooth muscle cells rather than functional contractile cardiomyocytes have caused skepticism if they can potentially be harnessed for cardiac repair. In recent years, reprogrammed or trans-differentiated adult cells, as a result of being backed by excess sum of government and private funding, have been rekindled as the adult alternates. However, major drawbacks such as abnormal gene expression, accelerated aging, immune rejection, not graftable, and extremely low efficiencies, have severely impaired the utility of reprogrammed or trans-differentiated somatic cells as viable therapeutic approaches.

Feasibility and challenges of addressing this CQ or CC :

Opportunity: Derivation of pluripotent human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) from the IVF leftover embryos has brought a new era of cellular medicine for the heart. The intrinsic ability of a hESC for both unlimited self-renewal and differentiation into clinically-relevant lineages makes it a practically inexhaustible source of replacement cells for human tissue and function restoration. Therefore, it has been regarded as an ideal source to provide a large supply of functional human cells to heal the damaged or lost tissues that have naturally limited capacity for renewal, such as the human heart and the human brain. Although a vast sum of NHLBI funding has been spent on looking for adult alternates, such as reprogramming and trans-differentiation of fibroblasts or mature tissues, so far, only human cardiac stem/precursor/progenitor cells derived from embryo-originated hESCs have shown such cellular pharmacologic utility and capacity adequate for myocardium regeneration in pharmaceutical development of stem cell therapy for the damaged human heart.

Name of idea submitter and other team members who worked on this idea : Xuejun Parsons

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Idea No. 368