New Faculty Physician Scientist
Stem Cell Use:
Embryonic Stem Cell
Because the regenerative capacity of adult heart is limited, any substantial cell loss as a result of a heart attack is mostly irreversible and may lead to progressive heart failure. Human pluripotent stem cells can be differentiated to heart cells, but their properties when transplanted into an injured heart remain unresolved. We propose to perform preclinical evaluation for transplantation of pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiac cells into the injured heart of an appropriate animal model. However, an important issue that has limited the progress to clinical use is their fate upon transplantation; that is whether they are capable of integrating into their new environment or they will function in isolation at their own pace. As an analogy, the performance of a symphony can go into chaos if one member plays in isolation from all surrounding cues. Therefore, it is important to determine if the transplanted cells can beat in harmony with the rest of the heart and if these cells will provide functional benefit to the injured heart. We plan to isolate cardiac cells derived from human pluripotent stem cells, transplant them into the model’s injured heart, determine if they result in improvement of the heart function, and perform detailed electrophysiology studies to determine their integration into the host tissue. The success of the proposed project will set the platform for future clinical trails of stem cell therapy for heart disease.
Statement of Benefit to California:
Heart disease remains the leading cause of mortality and morbidity in the US with an estimated annual cost of over $300 billion. In California alone, more than 70,000 people die every year from cardiovascular diseases. Despite major advancement in treatments for patients with heart failure, which is mainly due to cellular loss upon myocardial injury, the mortality rate remains high. Human embryonic stem cells (hESC) and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) could provide an attractive therapeutic option to treat patients with damaged heart. We propose to isolate heart cells from hESCs and transplant them in an injured animal model's heart and study their fate. In the process, we will develop reagents that can be highly valuable for future research and clinical studies. The reagents generated in these studies can be patented forming an intellectual property portfolio shared by the state and the institution where the research is carried out. Most importantly, the research that is proposed in this application could lead to future stem cell-based therapies that would restore heart function after a heart attack. We expect that California hospitals and health care entities will be first in line for trials and therapies. Thus, California will benefit economically and it will help advance novel medical care.
Identification and isolation of pure cardiac cells derived from human pluripotent stem cells has proven to be a difficult task. We have designed a method to genetically engineer human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) to harbor a label that is expressed during sequential maturation of cardiac cells. This will allow us to prospectively isolate cardiac cells at different stages of development for further characterization and transplantation. Using this method, we have screened proteins that are expressed on the surface of cells as markers. Using antibodies against these surface markers allows for isolation of these cells using cell sorting techniques. Thus far, we have identified two surface markers that can be used to isolate early cardiac progenitors. Using these markers, we have enriched for cardiac cells from differentiating hESCs and have characterized their properties in the dish as well as in small animals. We plan to transplant these cells in large animal models and monitor their survival, expansion and their integration into the host myocardium. Molecular imaging techniques are used to track these cells upon transplantation.