Japanese researchers repair monkey hearts with artificial stem cells

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 October, 2016, 7:34pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 October, 2016, 10:14pm

A team of Japanese researchers has succeeded in restoring some cardiac functioning in monkeys that have suffered heart attacks by transplanting tissues grown from artificially derived stem cells of the primate, according to a study published in the British science journal Nature.

The study, dated Monday, by the team including Yuji Shiba, an associate professor at the Institute for Biomedical Sciences at Shinshu University, could pave the way to clinical application of the results to regeneration procedures for humans.

“Although we have to address such challenges as rejection, canceration and other side effects, we aim to realise clinical application within several years in cooperation with other research teams,” Shiba said.

Shiba’s team has grown so-called induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells, from skins of cynomolgus monkeys. They were then converted into cardiomyocytes, or cardiac muscle cells, and injected into the hearts of five other cynomolgus monkeys subjected to myocardial infarction.

In 12 weeks, the transplanted cells became part of their hearts and pulsative, improving the functioning of the hearts by 5 to 10 per cent, according to the study.

The team’s data show that the transplantation procedure is sufficient to regenerate the post-infarct non-human primate heart, according to the study.

In the recipients, adverse effects of a surge in the number of irregular heartbeats were observed within four weeks of the cell transplantation. While none of them was serious, the study noted the need for further research to manage post-transplant arrhythmia.

The research employed a type of monkey known to be less susceptible to graft rejection. Kyoto University is building a stockpile of iPS cells derived from humans born with cells with a lower risk of rejection. The latest study points to the potential efficacy of the procedure in humans.