Stem-cell based therapies to strengthen the heart muscle and treat other diseases are beginning to show promise in human clinical trials. However, other than observing clinical outcomes, lack of a repeatable, time-sensitive, and noninvasive tool to assess the effectiveness of the transplanted cells within the target organ has slowed progress in the stem cell field. Researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM), the University of Pennsylvania, and Emory University theorized that a blood test could be used to track the efficacy of transplanted stem cells. They aimed to achieve their goal by analyzing tiny cellular components called exosomes, secreted from the transplanted stem cells into the recipient blood. The researchers tested their theory in rodent models of heart attack, or myocardial infarction, after transplanting two types of human cardiac stem cells and monitoring their circulating exosomes. The researchers found that circulating exosomes delivered cell components to the target heart muscle cells, resulting in cardiac repair. The results of their work were published online on May 22, 2019 in Science Translational Medicine. The article is titled “Circulating Exosomes Derived from Transplanted Progenitor Cells Aid the Functional Recovery of Ischemic Myocardium.”“Exosomes contain the signals of the cells they’re derived from – proteins, as well as nucleic acids and micro ribonucleic acids (miRNAs) – which affect receptor cells and remodel or regenerate the organ we’re targeting,” said study co-senior author Sunjay Kaushal, PhD, MD, Professor of Surgery at UMSOM and Director of Pediatric Cardiac Surgery at the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital.
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