Stem cell therapy is a promising therapeutic option for ischemic heart diseases, such as cardiac infarction. First clinical trials using this approach show promising safety profiles with modest improvements. The biggest challenge is the creation of a suitable stem cell home, delivering survival and differentiation signals. This hurdle can be overcome by delivering the cells as a sheet or a patch including a suitable scaffold.
A clinically relevant cardiac patch is presented in a study published in Advanced Biosystems by Jan Hansmann et al. (University Hospital and Translational Center Würzburg of the Fraunhofer Institute IGB Würzburg, Germany). The so-called BioVaSc®, i.e. Biological Vascularized Scaffold, is made of decellularized sterile porcine intestine, in which the fine capillary structures are preserved and reseeded with human endothelial cells. This scaffold is then populated with human induced-pluripotent-stem-cells-derived cardiomyocytes (hiPS-CM) in co-culture with human dermal fiboblasts (hdFB), and human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSC).
The tissue patches show physiological heart characteristics, such as a spontaneous beating frequency, which correlates with values reported for humans. In dynamic bioreactor culture, pumping blood through the preserved vasculature, the tissue is functional for more than four months. The tissue patches respond to cardiac drugs and stimulation by cardiac pace makers. This makes the model a suitable candidate for drug screening. In addition, the cardiac patch is close to clinical translation and by using a patient’s own stem cells, a personalized tissue graft as a new treatment option for ischemic heart diseases is possible.