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Physiol Rev. 2016 Jul;96(3):1127-68. doi: 10.1152/physrev.00019.2015.

Rebuilding the Damaged Heart: Mesenchymal Stem Cells, Cell-Based Therapy, and Engineered Heart Tissue.

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Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute, Department of Medicine, and Department of Surgery, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami, Florida.


Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are broadly distributed cells that retain postnatal capacity for self-renewal and multilineage differentiation. MSCs evade immune detection, secrete an array of anti-inflammatory and anti-fibrotic mediators, and very importantly activate resident precursors. These properties form the basis for the strategy of clinical application of cell-based therapeutics for inflammatory and fibrotic conditions. In cardiovascular medicine, administration of autologous or allogeneic MSCs in patients with ischemic and nonischemic cardiomyopathy holds significant promise. Numerous preclinical studies of ischemic and nonischemic cardiomyopathy employing MSC-based therapy have demonstrated that the properties of reducing fibrosis, stimulating angiogenesis, and cardiomyogenesis have led to improvements in the structure and function of remodeled ventricles. Further attempts have been made to augment MSCs' effects through genetic modification and cell preconditioning. Progression of MSC therapy to early clinical trials has supported their role in improving cardiac structure and function, functional capacity, and patient quality of life. Emerging data have supported larger clinical trials that have been either completed or are currently underway. Mechanistically, MSC therapy is thought to benefit the heart by stimulating innate anti-fibrotic and regenerative responses. The mechanisms of action involve paracrine signaling, cell-cell interactions, and fusion with resident cells. Trans-differentiation of MSCs to bona fide cardiomyocytes and coronary vessels is also thought to occur, although at a nonphysiological level. Recently, MSC-based tissue engineering for cardiovascular disease has been examined with quite encouraging results. This review discusses MSCs from their basic biological characteristics to their role as a promising therapeutic strategy for clinical cardiovascular disease.

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