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World J Stem Cells. 2017 Jan 26;9(1):9-25. doi: 10.4252/wjsc.v9.i1.9.

Optimizing stem cells for cardiac repair: Current status and new frontiers in regenerative cardiology.

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Shant Der Sarkissian, Nicolas Noiseux, Department of Surgery, Faculté de Médecine, Université de Montréal, Montreal, QC H3C 3J7, Canada.


Cell therapy has the potential to improve healing of ischemic heart, repopulate injured myocardium and restore cardiac function. The tremendous hope and potential of stem cell therapy is well understood, yet recent trials involving cell therapy for cardiovascular diseases have yielded mixed results with inconsistent data thereby readdressing controversies and unresolved questions regarding stem cell efficacy for ischemic cardiac disease treatment. These controversies are believed to arise by the lack of uniformity of the clinical trial methodologies, uncertainty regarding the underlying reparative mechanisms of stem cells, questions concerning the most appropriate cell population to use, the proper delivery method and timing in relation to the moment of infarction, as well as the poor stem cell survival and engraftment especially in a diseased microenvironment which is collectively acknowledged as a major hindrance to any form of cell therapy. Indeed, the microenvironment of the failing heart exhibits pathological hypoxic, oxidative and inflammatory stressors impairing the survival of transplanted cells. Therefore, in order to observe any significant therapeutic benefit there is a need to increase resilience of stem cells to death in the transplant microenvironment while preserving or better yet improving their reparative functionality. Although stem cell differentiation into cardiomyocytes has been observed in some instance, the prevailing reparative benefits are afforded through paracrine mechanisms that promote angiogenesis, cell survival, transdifferentiate host cells and modulate immune responses. Therefore, to maximize their reparative functionality, ex vivo manipulation of stem cells through physical, genetic and pharmacological means have shown promise to enable cells to thrive in the post-ischemic transplant microenvironment. In the present work, we will overview the current status of stem cell therapy for ischemic heart disease, discuss the most recurring cell populations employed, the mechanisms by which stem cells deliver a therapeutic benefit and strategies that have been used to optimize and increase survival and functionality of stem cells including ex vivo preconditioning with drugs and a novel "pharmaco-optimizer" as well as genetic modifications.


Cellular cardiomyoplasty; Heart failure; Myocardial infarction; Paracrine activity; Pharmaco-optimizer; Preconditioning; Regenerative medicine; Stem cell; Transplantation; Viability

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Conflict-of-interest statement: No potential conflicts of interest.

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