Heart Disease

Coding Dimension ID: 
295
Coding Dimension path name: 
Heart Disease
Funding Type: 
New Faculty Physician Scientist
Grant Number: 
RN3-06378
Investigator: 
ICOC Funds Committed: 
$3 105 388
Disease Focus: 
Heart Disease
Stem Cell Use: 
Embryonic Stem Cell
oldStatus: 
Active
Public Abstract: 

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.

Progress Report: 
  • 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.
  • Pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) harbor several attractive features for regenerative medicine: they are capable of self-renewal and have the capacity to differentiate to the tissue lineage of all three germ layers. The overall objective of this grant is to develop new technologies that can facilitate generation of cardiovascular progenitors that upon transplantation are capable to integrate into the host tissue and function as part of the normal myocardium with no adverse effect.
  • Several clinical trials of cell-based therapy have generated enthusiasm about the potential of adult stem cells to treat heart disease. However, no study has yet confirmed the delivery of a pure population of stem cells capable of robust regeneration of the injured myocardium. Furthermore, the electrical properties of the viable engrafted cells remain unknown. While adult stem cells have yet failed to convincingly regenerate myocardial tissue, human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) have proven to be a potential and unlimited source for cardiomyocyte regeneration. Most attempts to isolate transplantable cells from hESCs have aimed to isolate mature cells. Mature cardiomyocytes have passed the stage of self-renewal and may pose problems due to lack of proper integration. Cardiovascular progenitors, on the other hand, could adapt to the microenvironment for optimal integration into the host tissue and reside there for the lifetime of the patient.
  • We have employed gene editing technology to generate new hESC lines, in which fluorescent reporter proteins are expressed only in cardiac cells. Hence, upon differentiation of hESCs towards cardiac lineage, a distinct fluorescent color is expressed sequentially at each stage of cardiovascular development. We have isolated these cells and have performed detailed analysis to fully characterize their developmental potential. We have performed global gene expression analysis to identify novel biomarkers unique to specific cardiac populations.
  • An addition, we have transplanted cardiovascular progenitors (at different stages of development) and mature cardiomyocytes in animal models. We have shown engraftment of these cells into the host heart, albeit a very low efficiency. Furthermore, we have shown that transplantation of immature cardiovascular progenitors may generate cardiomyocytes in addition to supporting cells such as vascular endothelial cells and fibroblasts. These results highlight the potential benefit of progenitor cells to generate other cell types that contribute to heart regeneration.
  • A major challenge to clinical translation of stem cells for heart regeneration is the lack of data on the integration of the transplanted cells into the host heart. . It is possible that the transplanted cells fail to physiologically couple with the host tissue, or they may modify the substrate such that a pro-arrhythmic focus is created. As an analogy, consider the performance of a great symphony orchestra that is interrupted by several members playing in isolation. As such, grafted cells in the heart can also be an ectopic source of activities, promoting arrhythmic events. These are critical issues that need to be addressed in detail in the right animal models before any clinical application can be pursued. We plan to investigate the extent of structural and functional integration of the transplanted cells into the host heart.
Funding Type: 
New Faculty Physician Scientist
Grant Number: 
RN3-06455
Investigator: 
Name: 
Type: 
PI
ICOC Funds Committed: 
$3 004 315
Disease Focus: 
Heart Disease
Stem Cell Use: 
iPS Cell
oldStatus: 
Active
Public Abstract: 

Despite therapeutic advances, cardiovascular disease remains a leading cause of mortality and morbidity in California. Regenerative therapies that restore normal function after a heart attack would have an enormous societal and financial impact. Although very promising, regenerative cardiac cell therapy faces a number of challenges and technological hurdles. Human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC) allow the potential to deliver patient specific, well-defined cardiac progenitor cells (CPC) for regenerative clinical therapies. We propose to translate recent advances in our lab into the development of a novel, well-defined hiPSC-derived CPC therapy. All protocols will be based on clinical-grade, FDA-approvable, animal product-free methods to facilitate preclinical testing in a large animal model.
This application will attempt to translate these findings by:
-Developing techniques and protocols utilizing human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiac progenitor cells at yields adequate to conduct preclinical large animal studies.
-Validation of therapeutic activity will be in small and large animal models of ischemic heart disease by demonstrating effectiveness of hiPSC-derived CPCs in regenerating damaged myocardium post myocardial infarction in small and large animal models.
This developmental candidate and techniques described here, if shown to be a feasible alternative to current approaches, would offer a novel approach to the treatment of ischemic heart disease.

Statement of Benefit to California: 

Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in California and the US costing the healthcare system greater than 300 billion dollars a year. Although current therapies slow progression of heart disease, there are few options to reverse or repair the damaged heart. The limited ability of the heart to regenerate following a heart attack results in loss of function and heart failure. Human clinical trials testing the efficacy of adult stem cell therapy to restore mechanical function after a heart attack, although promising, have had variable results with modest improvements.
The discovery of human induced pluripotent stem cells offers a potentially unlimited renewable source for patient specific cardiac progenitor cells. However, practical application of pluripotent stem cells or their derivatives face a number of challenges and technological hurdles. We have demonstrated that cardiac progenitor cells, which are capable of differentiating into all cardiovascular cell types, are present during normal fetal development and can be isolated from human induced pluripotent stem cells. We propose to translate these findings into a large animal pre-clinical model and eventually to human clinical trials. This could lead to new therapies that would restore heart function after a heart attack preventing heart failure and death. This will have tremendous societal and financial benefits to patients in California and the US in treating heart failure.

Progress Report: 
  • Cardiovascular disease remains to be a major cause of morbidity and mortality in California and the United States. Despite the best medical therapies, none address the issue of irreversible myocardial tissue loss after a heart attack and thus there has been a great interest to develop approaches to induce regeneration. Our lab has focused on harvesting the full potential of patient specific induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) to use to attempt to regenerate the damaged tissue. We believe that these iPSCs can be potentially used in the future to generate sufficient number of cells to be implanted in the damaged heart to regenerate the lost tissue post heart attack. Our lab has studied how these cardiac progenitors evolve in the developing heart and applied our finding to iPSCs to recapitulate the cardiac progenitors to ultimately use in clinical therapies. We have successfully derived these cardiac progenitors from patient derived iPSCs in a clinical grade fashion to ensure that we can apply same protocols in the future to clinical use if we are successful in demonstrating the efficacy of this therapy in our translational large animal studies that we will be conducting.
  • Cardiovascular disease remains to be a major cause of morbidity and mortality in California and the United States. Despite the best medical therapies, none address the issue of irreversible myocardial tissue loss after a heart attack and thus there has been a great interest to develop approaches to induce regeneration. Our lab has focused on harvesting the full potential of patient specific induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) to use to attempt to regenerate the damaged tissue. We believe that these iPSCs can be potentially used in the future to generate sufficient number of cells to be implanted in the damaged heart to regenerate the lost tissue post heart attack. Our lab has studied how these cardiac progenitors evolve in the developing heart and applied our finding to iPSCs to recapitulate the cardiac progenitors to ultimately use in clinical therapies. We have successfully derived these cardiac progenitors from patient derived iPSCs in a clinical grade fashion to ensure that we can apply same protocols in the future to clinical use if we are successful in demonstrating the efficacy of this therapy in our translational large animal studies that we will be conducting. We currently are testing their in vivo regeneration potential in small animal studies to assess their safety and efficacy in regenerating the damaged heart.
  • We have completed the first phase of in vivo studies demonstrating that human cardiac progenitor cells were effective is restoring the function of the hearts in a heart attack model in a rat. We have shown that once injected, these human cardiac progenitor cells into the rat heart, the heart function was restored back close to normal. We plan next to test the human cardiac progenitor cells in a pig heart attack models as a preclinical model prior to human studies.
Funding Type: 
Basic Biology IV
Grant Number: 
RB4-06215
Investigator: 
Type: 
PI
ICOC Funds Committed: 
$1 367 604
Disease Focus: 
Heart Disease
Stem Cell Use: 
Adult Stem Cell
oldStatus: 
Active
Public Abstract: 

In the process of a heart attack, clots form suddenly on top of cholesterol-laden plaques, blocking blood flow to heart muscle. As a result, living heart tissue dies and is replaced by scar. The larger the scar, the higher the chance of premature death and disability following the heart attack. While conventional treatments aim to limit the initial injury (by promptly opening the clogged artery) and to prevent further damage (using various drugs), regenerative therapy for heart attacks seeks to regrow healthy heart muscle and to dissolve scar. To date, cell therapy with CDCs is the only intervention which has been shown to be clinically effective in regenerating the injured human heart. However, the cellular origin of the newly-formed heart muscle and the mechanisms underlying its generation remain unknown. The present grant seeks to understand those basic mechanisms in detail, relying upon state-of-the-art scientific methods and preclinical disease models. Our work to date suggests that much of the benefit is due to an indirect effect of transplanted CDCs to stimulate the proliferation of surrounding host heart cells. This represents a major, previously-unrecognized mechanism of cardiac regeneration in response to cell therapy. The proposed project will open up novel mechanistic insights which will hopefully enable us to boost the efficacy of stem cell-based treatments by bolstering the regeneration of injured heart muscle.

Statement of Benefit to California: 

Coronary artery disease is the predominant cause of premature death and disability in California. Clots form suddenly on top of cholesterol-laden plaques in the wall of a coronary artery, blocking blood flow to the heart muscle. This leads to a “heart attack”, in which living heart muscle dies and is replaced by scar. The larger the scar, the greater the chance of death and disability following the heart attack. While conventional treatments aim to limit the initial injury (by promptly opening the clogged artery) and to prevent further injury (using various drugs), regenerative therapy for heart attacks seeks to regrow healthy heart muscle and to dissolve scar. To date, cell therapy with CDCs is the only intervention that has been shown to be clinically effective in regenerating the injured human heart. However, the cellular origin of the newly-formed heart muscle and the mechanisms underlying its generation remain unknown. The present grant seeks to understand those basic mechanisms in detail, relying upon state-of-the-art scientific methods and preclinical disease models. The resulting insights will enable more rational development of novel therapeutic approaches, to the benefit of the public health of the citizens of California. Economic benefits may also accrue from licensing of new technology.

Progress Report: 
  • Key abbreviations:
  • CDCs: cardiosphere-derived cells
  • MI: myocardial infarction
  • The present award tests the hypothesis that CDCs promote regrowth of normal mammalian heart tissue through induction of adult cardiomyocyte cell cycle re-entry and proliferation (as occurs naturally in zebrafish and neonatal mice). Such a mechanism, if established, would challenge the dogma that terminally-differentiated adult cardiomyocytes cannot re-enter the cell cycle. We have employed an inducible cardiomyocyte-specific fate-mapping approach (to specifically mark resident myocytes and their progeny), coupled with novel methods of myocyte purification and rigorous quantification. We have also developed assays that enable us to exclude potential technical confounding factors. The use of bitransgenic mice is essential for our experimental design (as it enables fate mapping of resident myocytes in a mammalian model), while the use of mouse CDCs in our in vivo experiments (as opposed to human CDCs) enables us to avoid immunosuppression and its complications. To date, mouse, rat and pig models have proven to be reliable in predicting clinical effects of CDC therapy in humans, and results with human and mouse CDCs in comparable models (e.g., SCID mice for human CDCs versus wild-type mice for mouse CDCs) have not revealed any major mechanistic divergence. Our results demonstrate that induction of cardiomyocyte proliferation represents a major, previously-unrecognized mechanism of cardiac regeneration in response to cell therapy. One full-length publication describing these findings has appeared (K. Malliaras et al., EMBO Mol Med, 2013, 5:191-209), and another paper has been submitted. The work has already begun to open up novel mechanistic insights which will enable us to improve the efficacy of stem cell-based treatments and bolster cardiomyocyte repopulation of infarcted myocardium.
  • CDCs: cardiosphere-derived cells
  • MI: myocardial infarction
  • The present award tests the hypothesis that CDCs promote regrowth of normal mammalian heart tissue through induction of adult cardiomyocyte cell cycle re-entry and proliferation (as occurs naturally in zebrafish and neonatal mice). Such a mechanism, if established, would challenge the dogma that terminally-differentiated adult cardiomyocytes cannot reenter the cell cycle. We have employed an inducible cardiomyocyte-specific fate-mapping approach (to specifically mark resident myocytes and their progeny), coupled with novel methods of myocyte purification and rigorous quantification. We have also developed assays that enable us to exclude potential technical confounding factors. The use of bitransgenic mice is essential for our experimental design (as it enables fate mapping of resident myocytes in a mammalian model), while the use of mouse CDCs in our in vivo experiments (as opposed to human CDCs) enables us to avoid immunosuppression and its complications. To date, mouse, rat, and pig models have proven to be reliable in predicting clinical effects of CDC therapy in humans, and results with human and mouse CDCs in comparable models (e.g., SCID mice for human CDCs versus wild-type mice for mouse CDCs) have not revealed any major mechanistic divergence. Our results demonstrate that induction of cardiomyocyte proliferation represents a major, previously-unrecognized mechanism of cardiac regeneration in response to cell therapy. Two full-length publications describing these findings has appeared (Malliaras, K, et al., EMBO Mol Med. 2014, 6:760-777; Malliaras K, et al., EMBO Mol Med, 2013, 5:191-209). The work has already begun to open up novel mechanistic insights which will enable us to improve the efficacy of stem cell-based treatments and bolster cardiomyocyte repopulation of infarcted myocardium.
  • CDCs: cardiosphere-derived cells
  • MI: myocardial infarction
  • The present award tests the hypothesis that CDCs promote regrowth of normal mammalian heart tissue through induction of adult cardiomyocyte cell cycle re-entry and proliferation (as occurs naturally in zebrafish and neonatal mice). Such a mechanism, if established, would challenge the dogma that terminally-differentiated adult cardiomyocytes cannot reenter the cell cycle. We have employed an inducible cardiomyocyte-specific fate-mapping approach (to specifically mark resident myocytes and their progeny), coupled with novel methods of myocyte purification and rigorous quantification. We have also developed assays that enable us to exclude potential technical confounding factors. The use of bitransgenic mice is essential for our experimental design (as it enables fate mapping of resident myocytes in a mammalian model), while the use of mouse CDCs in our in vivo experiments (as opposed to human CDCs) enables us to avoid immunosuppression and its complications. To date, mouse, rat, and pig models have proven to be reliable in predicting clinical effects of CDC therapy in humans, and results with human and mouse CDCs in comparable models (e.g., SCID mice for human CDCs versus wild-type mice for mouse CDCs) have not revealed any major mechanistic divergence. Our results demonstrate that induction of cardiomyocyte proliferation represents a major, previously-unrecognized mechanism of cardiac regeneration in response to cell therapy. Two full-length publications describing these findings has appeared (Malliaras, K, et al., EMBO Mol Med. 2014, 6:760-777; Malliaras K, et al., EMBO Mol Med, 2013, 5:191-209). The work has already begun to open up novel mechanistic insights which will enable us to improve the efficacy of stem cell-based treatments and bolster cardiomyocyte repopulation of infarcted myocardium.
Funding Type: 
Basic Biology IV
Grant Number: 
RB4-06035
Investigator: 
Name: 
Institution: 
Type: 
PI
ICOC Funds Committed: 
$1 708 560
Disease Focus: 
Heart Disease
Stem Cell Use: 
Directly Reprogrammed Cell
Cell Line Generation: 
iPS Cell
oldStatus: 
Active
Public Abstract: 

Recently, we devised and reported a new regenerative medicine paradigm that entails temporal/transient overexpression of induced pluripotent stem cell based reprogramming factors in skin cells, leading to the rapid generation of “activated” cells, which can then be directed by specific growth factors and small molecules to “relax” back into various defined and homogenous tissue-specific precursor cell types (including nervous cells, heart cells, blood vessel cells, and pancreas and liver progenitor cells), which can be expanded and further differentiated into mature cells entirely distinct from fibroblasts.

In this proposal, combined with small molecules that can functionally replace reprogramming transcription factors as well as substantially improve reprogramming efficiency and kinetics, we aim to further develop and mechanistically characterize chemically defined, non-integrating approaches (e.g., mRNA, miRNA, episomal plasmids and/or small molecule-based) to robustly and efficiently reprogram skin fibroblast cells into expandable heart precursor cells. Specifically, we will: determine if we can use non-integrating methods to destabilize human fibroblasts and facilitate their direct reprogramming into the heart precursor cells; characterize of heart cells generated by the direct programming methods, both in the tissue culture dish and in a mouse model of heart attack; and characterize newly identified reprogramming enhancing small molecules mechanistically.

Statement of Benefit to California: 

This study will develop and mechanistically characterize a new method of generating safe patient specific heart cells that could be useful in treating heart failure which afflicts millions of Californians and accounts for billions of dollars in healthcare spending annually. Additionally, the small molecules discovered in this study could be good candidates for future drug development as well as being broadly useful for other regenerative medicine applications. These advances could also be a platform for new personalized medicine/ cell banking businesses which could bring economic growth in addition to improving the health of Californians.

Progress Report: 
  • During the reporting period, we have made very significant progress toward the following research aims: (1) Using the Oct4-based reprogramming assay system established, we were able to screen for and identify small molecules that can replace the other three genes in the Cell-Activation and Signaling-Directed (CASD) lineage conversion paradigm for reprogramming fibroblasts into cardiac lineage. (2) Using in-depth assays, we have examined the process using lineage-tracing methods and characterized those Oct4/small molecules-reprogrammed cardiac cells in vitro. (3) Most importantly, we were able to identify a baseline condition that appears to reprogram human fibroblasts into cardiac cells using defined conditions.
  • Cardiomyocyte-like cells can be reprogrammed from somatic fibroblasts by combinations of genes in vitro1 and in vivo, providing a new avenue for cardiac regenerative therapy. However, transdifferentiating human cells to generate fully functional cardiomyocytes remains a challenge. Moreover, genetic manipulations with multiple factors used in such conventional strategies pose safety, efficacy, and technical concerns that may limit their clinical potential. In the work funded by CIRM we identified and demonstrated that functional cardiomyocytes can be rapidly and efficiently generated from fibroblasts by a combination of small molecules. These cardiomyocytes express characteristic cardiac markers, have a well-organized sarcomeric structure, contract spontaneously, and respond to pharmacological modulations. They closely resemble cardiomyocytes in their global gene expression profiles, and electrophysiological properties. This novel pharmacological reprogramming approach may have important implications in cardiac regenerative medicine.
  • Cardiomyocyte-like cells can be reprogrammed from somatic fibroblasts by combinations of genes in vitro and in vivo, providing a new avenue for cardiac regenerative therapy. However, transdifferentiating human cells to generate fully functional cardiomyocytes remains a challenge. Moreover, genetic manipulations with multiple factors used in such conventional strategies pose safety, efficacy, and technical concerns that may limit their clinical potential. In the work funded by CIRM we identified and demonstrated that functional cardiomyocytes can be rapidly and efficiently generated from fibroblasts by a combination of small molecules. These cardiomyocytes express characteristic cardiac markers, have a well-organized sarcomeric structure, contract spontaneously, and respond to pharmacological modulations. They closely resemble cardiomyocytes in their global gene expression profiles, and electrophysiological properties. This novel pharmacological reprogramming approach may have important implications in cardiac regenerative medicine.
Funding Type: 
Basic Biology IV
Grant Number: 
RB4-05764
Investigator: 
Type: 
PI
ICOC Funds Committed: 
$1 334 880
Disease Focus: 
Heart Disease
Stem Cell Use: 
iPS Cell
oldStatus: 
Active
Public Abstract: 

Currently, over 350,000 patients per year with abnormal heart rhythm receive electronic pacemakers to restore their normal heart beat. Electronic pacemakers do not respond to the need for changing heart rate in situations such as exercise and have limited battery life, which can be resolved with biopacemakers. In this proposed project, we will examine methods that improve the generation of pacemaking cells from human induced pluripotent stem cells as candidates for biopacemaker.

Statement of Benefit to California: 

This proposal aims to generate pacemaking cells through facilitated differentiation from human induced pluripotent stem cells that may serve as biopacemakers. Over 350,000 patients a year in the U.S. require the implantation of an electronic pacemaker to restore their heart rhythm, with more than 3 million patients that are dependent on this device. At the cost of $58K per pacemaker implantation, the healthcare burden is greater than $20 billion a year. However, the cost associated with these electronic devices does not end with surgery for implantation. These devices require a battery change every 5 to 10 years that involve another surgical procedure. With California being the most populated state, this can be very costly to the Californians. It also does not give the patients the quality of life by having to endure repeated surgeries. The possibility of biopacemaker that requires no future battery replacements and other advantages such as physiological adaptation to the active state of the patient make biopacemakers a truly desirable alternative to electronic devices. Moreover, one in 20,000 infants or preemies with congenital sinoatrial node dysfunction are also inappropriate candidates to receive electronic pacemakers because they are physically too small and require a proportional increase in the length of pacing leads with their significant growth rate. Therefore, there is a great need for biopacemakers that may overcome the deficiencies of electronic devices.

Progress Report: 
  • This goal of this project is to improve the yield of pacemaking cells from human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) that can be used to engineer biopacemaker. We have demonstrated that manipulation of the membrane potential of hiPSCs using small molecules can upregulate genes of the desired cell type progressing to the pacemaking cells at all differentiation stages. In the differentiation stage to mesodermal cells, treated hiPSCs exhibit a membrane potential that is further down the differentiation path than untreated control. This source was this change was examined.
  • We continued our work in improving the yield of pacemaking cells from human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) that can be used to engineer biopacemakers. The ion channel isoform responsible for the induced membrane potential changes in hiPSCs and their differentiating cardiac progeny was determined. We focused on optimizing the duration and the timing of membrane potential manipulation in improving the efficiency of pro-pacemaking cardiac progenitor cells and pacemaking cells.
  • Since the last reporting period, we have determined that pharmacologic activation of small conductance Ca2+-activated K+ (SK) channel in specific differentiation stages of human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) can improve the yield of a population of cardiac progenitor cells that are precursors to pacemaking cardiomyocytes. This effect was mediated through calcium release from an intracellular calcium store. Activation of SK channels after the cardiac progenitor stage also increased the frequency of automaticity in hiPSC-derived cardiomyocytes, which is a hallmark of pacemaking cardiomyocytes.
Funding Type: 
Basic Biology IV
Grant Number: 
RB4-05901
Investigator: 
Institution: 
Type: 
PI
ICOC Funds Committed: 
$1 708 560
Disease Focus: 
Heart Disease
Stem Cell Use: 
Embryonic Stem Cell
iPS Cell
oldStatus: 
Active
Public Abstract: 

Each cell type in our body has its own identity. This identity allows a heart cell to contract repetitively, and a brain cell to conduct nerve impulses. Each cell type gains its identity by turning on or off thousands of genes that together give the cell its identity. Understanding how these sets of genes are regulated together as a cell gains its identity is important to be able to generate new cells in disease. For example, after a heart attack, heart muscle dies, leaving scar tissue and a poorly functioning heart. It would be very useful to be able to make new heart muscle by introducing the right set of instructions into other cells in the heart, and turn them into new heart muscle cells. One way that many genes are turned on or off together is by a cellular mechanism called epigenetic regulation. This global regulation coordinates thousands of genes. We plan to understand the epigenetic regulatory mechanisms that give a human heart muscle cell its identity. Understanding their epigenetic blueprint of cardiac muscle cells will help develop strategies for cardiac regeneration, and for a deeper understanding of how cells in our body acquire their individual identities and function.

Statement of Benefit to California: 

This research will benefit the state of California and its citizens by helping develop new approaches to cardiac regeneration that will be more efficient than current approaches, and amenable to drug-based approaches. In addition, the knowledge acquired in these studies will be important not only for heart disease, but for any other disease where reprogramming to regenerate new cells is desirable. The mechanisms revealed by this research will also lead to new understanding of the basis for congenital heart defects, which affect several thousand Californian children every year, and for which we understand very little.

Progress Report: 
  • We have made considerable progress on this project, which is aimed at understanding how genes are controlled during the conversion of human stem cells into heart cells. We have been able to use advanced techniques that allow us to make millions of human heart cells in a dish from "Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells" (known as iPS cells), which are cells derived from skin cells that have properties of embryonic stem cells. We are now using genome engineering techniques to insert a mutation that is associated with human congenital heart defects. We are now starting to map the chromatin marks that will tell us how heart genes are turned on, while genes belonging to other cell types are kept off. This "blueprint" of a heart cell will help us understand how to make better heart cells to repair injured hearts, and will allow us to model human congenital heart disease in a human experimental system.
  • We have made considerable progress on this project, which is aimed at understanding how genes are controlled during the conversion of human stem cells into heart cells. We have been able to use advanced techniques that allow us to make millions of human heart cells in a dish from "Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells" (known as iPS cells), which are cells derived from skin cells that have properties of embryonic stem cells. We are now using genome engineering techniques to insert a mutation that is associated with human congenital heart defects. We are now starting to map the chromatin marks that will tell us how heart genes are turned on, while genes belonging to other cell types are kept off. This "blueprint" of a heart cell will help us understand how to make better heart cells to repair injured hearts, and will allow us to model human congenital heart disease in a human experimental system.
  • We set out to map out the blueprint of human cardiac myocytes, to create a resource that would help understand human heart disease, and facilitate progress towards cardiac regeneration. Along three aims, we have progressed to develop the data that will allow us to understand this blueprint, have made unique resource cells that label specific cells of the heart, and have created new cellular models of human congenital heart disease. This progress has allowed the production of unique resources that will be highly valuable to the scientific community, and will help us understand human heart disease.
Funding Type: 
Basic Biology IV
Grant Number: 
RB4-06276
Investigator: 
ICOC Funds Committed: 
$1 582 606
Disease Focus: 
Heart Disease
Pediatrics
Stem Cell Use: 
iPS Cell
Cell Line Generation: 
iPS Cell
oldStatus: 
Active
Public Abstract: 

Most heart conditions leading to sudden death or impaired pumping heart functions in the young people (<35 years old) are the results of genetic mutations inherited from parents. It is very difficult to find curative therapy for these inherited heart diseases due to late diagnosis and lack of understanding in how genetic mutations cause these diseases. Using versatile stem cells derived from patients’ skin cells with genetic mutations in cell-cell junctional proteins, we have made a significant breakthrough and successfully modeled one of these inherited heart diseases within a few months in cell cultures. These disease-specific stem cells can give rise to heart cells, which allow us to discover novel abnormalities in heart energy consumption that causes dysfunction and death of these diseased heart cells. Currently, there is no disease-slowing therapy to these inherited heart diseases except implanting a shocking device to prevent sudden death. We propose here to generate more patient-specific stem cell lines in a dish from skin cells of patients with similar clinical presentations but with different mutations. With these new patient-specific stem cell lines, we will be able to understand more about the malfunctioned networks and elucidate common disease-causing mechanisms as well as to develop better and safer therapies for treating these diseases. We will also test our new therapeutic agents in a mouse model for their efficacy and safety before applying to human patients.

Statement of Benefit to California: 

Heart conditions leading to sudden death or impaired pumping functions in the young people (<35 years old) frequently are the results of genetic mutations inherited from parents. Currently, there is no disease-slowing therapy to these diseases. It is difficult to find curative therapy for these diseases due to late diagnosis. Many cell culture and animal models of human inherited heart diseases have been established but with significant limitation in their application to invent novel therapy for human patients. Recent progress in cellular reprogramming of skin cells to patient-specific induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) enables modeling human genetic disorders in cell cultures. We have successfully modeled one of the inherited heart diseases within a few months in cell cultures using iPSCs derived from patients’ skin cells with genetic mutations in cell-cell junctional proteins. Heart cells derived from these disease-specific iPSCs enable us to discover novel disease-causing abnormalities and develop new therapeutic strategies. We plan to generate more iPSCs with the same disease to find common pathogenic pathways, identify new therapeutic strategies and conduct preclinical testing in a mouse model of this disease. Successful accomplishment of proposed research will make California the epicenter of heart disease modeling in vitro, which very likely will lead to human clinical trials and benefit its young citizens who have inherited heart diseases.

Progress Report: 
  • Most heart conditions leading to sudden death or impaired cardiac pumping functions in the young people (<35 years old) are the results of genetic mutations inherited from parents. It is very difficult to find curative therapy for these inherited heart diseases due to late diagnosis and lack of understanding in how genetic mutations cause these diseases. One of these inherited heart diseases is named arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia/cardiomyopathy (ARVD/C). The signature features of sick ARVD/C hearts are progressive heart muscle loss and their replacement by fat and scare tissues, which can lead to lethal irregular heart rhythms and/or heart failure. We have made a significant breakthrough and successfully modeled the sick ARVD/C heart muscles within two months in cell cultures using versatile stem cells derived from ARVD/C patients’ skin cells with genetic mutations in one of the desmosomal (a specific type of cell-cell junctions in hearts) proteins, named plakophilin-2. These disease-specific stem cells can give rise to heart cells, which allow us to discover specific abnormalities in heart energy consumption of ARVD/C heart muscles that causes dysfunction and death of these diseased heart cells. In the Year 1 of this grant support, we have made and characterized additional stem cells lines from ARVD/C patients with different desmosomal mutations. We are in the process to determine if heart muscles derived from these new ARVD/C patient-specific stem cells have common disease-causing mechanisms as we had published. We found two proposed therapeutic agents are ineffective in suppressing ARVD/C disease in culture but we have identified one potential drug that suppressed the loss of ARVD/C heart cells in culture. We also started to establish a known ARVD/C mouse model for future preclinical drug testing.
  • Most heart conditions leading to sudden death or impaired cardiac pumping functions in the young people (<35 years old) are the results of genetic mutations inherited from parents. It is very difficult to find curative therapy for these inherited heart diseases due to late diagnosis and lack of understanding in how genetic mutations cause these diseases. One of these inherited heart diseases is named arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia/cardiomyopathy (ARVD/C). The signature features of sick ARVD/C hearts are progressive heart muscle loss and their replacement by fat and scare tissues, which can lead to lethal heart rhythms or heart failure. We made significant breakthrough and successfully modeled sick ARVD/C heart muscles in cell cultures using versatile stem cells derived from ARVD/C patients’ skin cells with genetic mutations in desmosomal (a specific type of cell-cell junctions in hearts) proteins, e.g. plakophilin-2 (Pkp2). These disease-specific stem cells can give rise to heart cells, which allow us to discover specific abnormalities in energy consumption of ARVD/C heart muscles that lead to their dysfunction and death. In Year 2, we continued to create and characterize additional stem cells lines from ARVD/C patients with different desmosomal mutations. As we had published previously, we have confirmed that the same metabolic deregulation occurs in heart muscles derived from new ARVD/C patient-specific stem cells with different mutations from Pkp2. We further explored new microRNA-based pathogenic mechanisms and identified new classes of therapeutic agents to suppress ARVD/C pathologies in culture. We also started to establish a known ARVD/C mouse model for future preclinical drug testing.
  • Most heart conditions leading to sudden death or impaired heart pumping functions in the young people (< 35 years old) are the results of genetic mutations inherited from parents. It is very difficult to find curative therapy for these inherited heart diseases due to late diagnosis and lack of understanding in how genetic mutations cause heart dysfunction. One of these inherited heart diseases is named arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia/ cardiomyopathy (ARVD/C). The signature features of sick ARVD/C hearts are progressive heart muscle loss and their replacement by fat and scar tissues, which can lead to lethal irregular heart rhythms or heart failure. We made significant breakthrough and successfully modeled sick ARVD/C heart muscles in cell cultures using versatile stem cells derived from ARVD/C patients’ skin cells with genetic mutations in desmosomal proteins (a specific type of cell-cell junctions in hearts), e.g. plakophilin-2 (Pkp2). These disease-specific stem cells can give rise to heart cells, which allow us to discover specific abnormalities in energy consumption of ARVD/C heart muscles that lead to their dysfunction and death. In Year 3, we have created and characterized additional stem cells lines from ARVD/C patients with different desmosomal mutations from Pkp2 mutations. We confirmed that the same metabolic deregulation occurred in heart muscles derived from new ARVD/C patient-specific stem cells with different mutations from Pkp2. Most importantly and in the Year 3, we cracked the disease codes and elucidated the entire key pathogenic networks underlying how mutations in Pkp2 lead to metabolic derangement in ARVD/C heart cells. Based on these novel findings, we have identified two potential and clinically safe prototype drugs that may slow down ARVD/C disease progression. We have requested a 7-month extension so that we could test these two new prototype drugs in their efficacy of treating an established ARVD/C mouse model so that we could obtain animal therapeutic and toxicity data in preparation for future clinical therapeutic testing in human patients with ARVD/C.
Funding Type: 
Disease Team Therapy Development - Research
Grant Number: 
DR2A-05394
Investigator: 
Name: 
Institution: 
Type: 
PI
Institution: 
Type: 
Co-PI
ICOC Funds Committed: 
$19 999 899
Disease Focus: 
Heart Disease
Stem Cell Use: 
Embryonic Stem Cell
oldStatus: 
Active
Public Abstract: 

Patients with end-stage heart failure have a 2-year survival rate of only 50% with conventional medical therapy. This dismal survival rate is actually significantly worse than patients with AIDS, liver cirrhosis, stroke, and other comparable debilitating diseases. Currently available therapies for end stage heart failure include drug and device therapies, as well as heart transplantation. While drug and device therapies have proven effective at reducing symptoms, hospitalizations and deaths due to heart failure, new approaches are clearly required to improve this low survival rate. Organ transplantation is highly effective at increasing patient survival, but is severely limited in its potential for broad-based application by the very low number of hearts that are available for transplantation each year. Stem cell therapy may be a promising strategy for improving heart failure patient outcomes by transplanting cells rather than a whole heart. Several studies have convincingly shown that human embryonic stem cells can be differentiated into heart muscle cells (cardiomyocytes) and that these cells can be used to improve cardiac function following a heart attack. The key objective of this CIRM Disease Team Therapy proposal is to perform the series of activities necessary to obtain FDA approval to initiate clinical testing of human embryonic stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes in end stage heart failure patients.

Statement of Benefit to California: 

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the number one cause of mortality and morbidity in the US. The American Heart Association has estimated that 5.7 million Americans currently suffer from heart failure, and that another 670,000 patients develop this disease annually. Cardiovascular disease has been estimated to result in an estimated $286 billion in direct and indirect costs in the US annually (NHLBI, 2010). As the most populous state in the nation, California bears a substantial fraction of the social and economic costs of this devastating disease. In recent years, stem cell therapy has emerged as a promising candidate for treating ischemic heart disease. Research by our group and others has demonstrated that human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) can be differentiated to cardiomyocytes using robust, scalable, and cGMP-compliant manufacturing processes, and that hESC-derived cardiomyocytes (hESC-CMs) can improve cardiac function in relevant preclinical animal models. In this proposal, we seek to perform the series of manufacturing, product characterization, nonclinical testing, clinical protocol development, and regulatory activities necessary to enable filing of an IND for hESC-CMs within four years. These IND development activities will be in support of a Phase 1 clinical trial to test hESC-CMs in heart failure patients for the first time. If successful, this program will both pave the way for a promising new therapy to treat Californians with heart failure numbering in the hundreds of thousands, and will further enhance California’s continuing prominence as a leader in the promising field of stem cell research and therapeutics.

Progress Report: 
  • Patients with end-stage heart failure (ESHF), which can result from heart attacks, have a 2-year survival rate of 50% with conventional medical therapy. Unlike cells of other organs, the billions of cardiomyocytes lost due to damage or disease do not regenerate. Recently, implantable mechanical pumps that take over the function of the failing left ventricle (left ventricular assist devices; LVADs) have been used to prolong the lives of heart failure patients. However, these devices carry an increased risk of stroke. The only current bona fide cure for ESHF is heart transplantation, but the shortage of donor organs and the risks associated with life-long use of powerful immunosuppressive drugs limit the number of patients that can be helped.
  • Human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) have the unique properties of being able to grow without limit and to be converted into all the cell types of the body, including cardiomyocytes. Our project seeks to find ways to treat patients by replacing their lost cardiomyocytes with healthy ones derived from hESC. The ultimate goal of this 4 year project is to evaluate the feasibility, safety, and efficacy of this approach in both small and large animal models of heart disease and to use this data to initiate a clinical trial to test the therapy in patients.
  • In our first year, we developed methods for producing essentially unlimited quantities of cardiomyocytes from hESCs using a process that is compatible both with clinical needs and large-scale industrial cell production. We have also developed models of heart disease in both rats and pigs, and have begun transplanting the stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes into the rat model. We have demonstrated that stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes can engraft in this animal model and we are testing their effects on the pumping function of the heart, the growth of replacement blood vessels lost during a heart attack, and the size of the scar that typically forms after injury. In the next several years, we will continue to evaluate the safety and function of these cells and will start to transplant in our large animal model of heart disease, which will enable us to test these cells in a heart with very similar characteristics to humans, delivered in a minimally invasive way that would be ideal for clinical use.
  • Patients with end-stage heart failure (ESHF), which can result from heart attacks, have a 2-year survival rate of 50% with conventional medical therapy. Unlike cells of other organs, the billions of cardiomyocytes lost due to damage or disease do not regenerate. Recently, implantable mechanical pumps that take over the function of the failing left ventricle (left ventricular assist devices; LVADs) have been used to prolong the lives of heart failure patients. However, these devices carry an increased risk of stroke. The only current bona fide cure for ESHF is heart transplantation, but the shortage of donor organs and the risks associated with life-long use of powerful immunosuppressive drugs limit the number of patients that can be helped.
  • Human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) have the unique properties of being able to grow without limit and to be converted into all the cell types of the body, including cardiomyocytes. Our project seeks to find ways to treat patients by replacing their lost cardiomyocytes with healthy ones derived from hESC. The ultimate goal of this 4 year project is to evaluate the feasibility, safety, and efficacy of this approach in both small and large animal models of heart disease and to use this data to initiate a clinical trial to test the therapy in patients.
  • In our first year, we developed methods for producing essentially unlimited quantities of cardiomyocytes from hESCs using a process that is compatible both with clinical needs and large-scale industrial cell production. We also developed models of heart disease in both rats and pigs, and began transplanting the stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes into the rat model. We demonstrated that stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes could engraft in this animal model for at least 1 month, and we observed their effect on the damaged tissue- we saw engraftment of healthy human cardiomyocytes, and noted that the graft induced the formation of new blood vessels.
  • In the second year, we a) discussed our strategy with FDA to get their advice and input (a "pre-PreIND call"); b) transplanted larger numbers of rats with 2 different doses of hESC-derived cardiomyocytes and will monitor them for longer periods (up to 9 months) to verify that no tumors form and there are no unexpected effects on the animals; c) developed in vitro assays to characterize the cardiomyocytes and to rule out the presence of any significant residual undifferentiated stem cells in the final product that will be used for cell therapy; and d) began designing and evaluating different immunosuppression strategies for the pig model, in order to allow the transplanted human cells to survive.
  • Patients with end-stage heart failure (ESHF) have a 2-year survival rate of 50% with conventional medical therapy. We propose to evaluate a new cell therapy approach (human embryonic stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes; hESC-CMs) to improve survival and cardiac function in these patients. The proposed cell product is generated from the federally approved human embryonic stem cell (hESC) line WA07; the hESC-CMs are then produced in a good manufacturing practice (GMP)-compliant process at City of Hope. The hESC-CMs are cryopreserved at harvest and thawed for subsequent immediate use. The overall dose of hESC-CMs in our phase 1 safety clinical trial is expected to be between 100 million and 300 million cells; the percentage of cardiomyocytes in the cell product is ≥ 80%, as assessed by flow cytometry for cardiomyocyte-specific protein expression.
  • The population for this study will be a subgroup of ESHF patients: those undergoing left ventricular assist device (LVAD) implantation, either as a bridge toward orthotopic heart transplantation (OHT) for refractory heart failure or as destination therapy when patients are not eligible for transplant or appropriate donor hearts are unavailable. Clinical assessment of improved function will be assessed by temporary “LVAD weaning”, in which the pump speed of the device is turned down to minimal levels and the patient’s cardiac function is assessed by both echocardiography and the 6 minute walk test. Accordingly, it is possible to assess the effects of therapies without putting the patient at serious risk.
  • Due to the allogeneic nature of the H7 hESC-CMs, patients will undergo low-dose temporary immunosuppression (starting on the day of LVAD implantation/hESC-CM injection; 2 weeks in duration). We do not anticipate long-term survival of transplanted cells, which is the current norm in the cardiac stem cell field. We do anticipate that the injected cells will release angiogenic factors that act upon the native myocardium, resulting in improved function. This biological mechanism has been well described in numerous other pre-clinical studies as well as clinical trials, whereby the injected stem cells do not persist long-term in the heart but still provide functional benefits.
  • In order to demonstrate the feasibility and safety of this approach, we have performed studies over the past year showing that a) animals that received transplants of the hESC-CMs show no evidence of any tumors after more than 6 months; b) the hESC-CMs improve heart function in a rodent model of heart disease; and c) delivery of the full human dose of hESC-CMs into a large animal model of heart failure (immunosuppressed pigs) shows no evidence of increased risk of dangerous arrhythmias or other adverse effects. We are in the process of evaluating any improvements in cardiac function in this large animal model of heart disease as well; due to the extreme difficulty of preventing rapid rejection of human cells in these animals, we do not necessarily anticipate seeing the same changes in function we expect to see in patients, where the cells should survive longer. We have met with FDA to help us design our crucial preclinical studies, if results show the hESC-CMs are safe and efficacious, we will use this data to gain approval to go forward with a proposed clinical trial.
Funding Type: 
Disease Team Therapy Development - Research
Grant Number: 
DR2A-05735
Investigator: 
Institution: 
Type: 
PI
Institution: 
Type: 
Co-PI
ICOC Funds Committed: 
$19 782 136
Disease Focus: 
Heart Disease
Stem Cell Use: 
Adult Stem Cell
oldStatus: 
Active
Public Abstract: 

The proposed research will demonstrate both safety and efficacy of a heart-derived stem cell product in patients who have experienced a heart attack either recently or in the past by conducting a mid-stage clinical trial. A prior early-stage trial showed that the product can repair damaged portions of the heart after a heart attack in ways that no commercial therapy currently can. Damaged areas turn irreversibly into scar tissue after the initial event, which can predispose a person to future events and lead to an ongoing worsening of general and heart health. Data from the early-stage trial suggest that treatment with the heart-derived cell product under development can turn scar tissue back into healthy heart muscle. The planned mid-stage trial will hopefully confirm that finding in a larger patient group and provide additional data to support the safety profile of the product. The product is manufactured using heart tissue obtained from a healthy donor and can be used in most other individuals. Its effect is thought to be long-lasting (months-years) although it is expected to be cleared from the body relatively quickly (weeks-months). Treatment is administered during a single brief procedure, requiring a local anesthetic and insertion of a tube (or catheter) into the heart. The overriding goal for the product is to prevent patients who have had a heart attack from deteriorating over time and developing heart failure, a condition which is defined by the heart’s inability to pump blood efficiently and one which affects millions of Americans. Successful completion of the proposed mid-stage trial would lead next to a final, confirmatory trial and then to the application process by which permission to market the product is obtained from the Food and Drug Administration. The end result could be an affordable stem cell therapy effective as part of a treatment regimen after a heart attack.

Statement of Benefit to California: 

The manufacturer of the heart-derived stem cell product under development is a California-based small company who currently employs 7 California residents. Five new local jobs will be created to support the proposed project. Three medical centers located in California will participate in the proposed mid-stage clinical trial. The trial will hopefully bring notoriety to both the company and the medical centers involved while at the same time provide a novel therapeutic option for the many citizens of California afflicted with heart disease. Recent statistics place California among the 50% of states with the highest death rates for heart disease. Therefore, a successfully developed cell product could have a meaningful impact on the home population. Furthermore, as manufacturing needs grow to accommodate the demands of early commercialization, the company anticipates generating 100+ new biotech jobs.

Progress Report: 
  • This project aims to demonstrate both safety and efficacy of a heart-derived cell product in patients who have experienced a heart attack either recently or in the past by conducting a mid-stage (Phase II) clinical trial. The cell product is manufactured using heart tissue obtained from a healthy donor and can be used in most other individuals. Its effect is thought to be long-lasting (months-years) although it is expected to be cleared from the body relatively quickly (weeks-months). Treatment is administered during a single brief procedure, requiring a local anesthetic and insertion of a tube (or catheter) into the heart. The overriding goal for the product is to prevent patients who have had a heart attack from deteriorating over time and developing heart failure, a condition which is defined by the heart’s inability to pump blood efficiently and one which affects millions of Americans. At the outset of the project, a Phase I trial was underway. By the close of the current reporting period, the Phase 1 trial had reached its main safety endpoint, and the Phase II trial was approved to proceed. Fourteen patients were treated with the heart-derived cell product as part of Phase I. The safety endpoint for the trial was pre-defined and took into consideration the following: inflammation in the heart accompanied by an immune response, death due to abnormal heart rhythms, sudden death, repeat heart attack, treatment for symptoms of heart failure, need for a heart assist device, and need for a heart transplant. Both an independent Data and Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) and CIRM agreed that Phase I met its safety endpoint and that Phase II was approved to proceed. The Phase I participants continue to be monitored for safety and efficacy. Meanwhile, the manufacturing processes established to create cell products for use in Phase I, were employed to create cell products in anticipation of Phase II. A supply of products was readied for use in Phase II. Also in anticipation of Phase II, a number of clinical sites were readied for participation. Manufacturing data and trial status updates were also provided to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
  • This project aims to demonstrate both safety and efficacy of a heart-derived cell product in patients who have experienced a heart attack either recently or in the past by conducting a mid-stage (Phase II) clinical trial. The cell product is manufactured using heart tissue obtained from a healthy donor and can be used in most other individuals. Its effect is thought to be long-lasting (months-years) although it is expected to be cleared from the body relatively quickly (weeks-months). Treatment is administered during a single brief procedure, requiring a local anesthetic and insertion of a tube (or catheter) into the heart. The overriding goal for the product is to prevent patients who have had a heart attack from deteriorating over time and developing heart failure, a condition which is defined by the heart’s inability to pump blood efficiently and one which affects millions of Americans. At the outset of the project, a Phase I trial was underway. The Phase II trial was initiated at the beginning of the current reporting period, and all subjects enrolled in Phase I completed follow up during the current reporting period. Fourteen patients were treated with the heart-derived cell product as part of Phase I. The safety endpoint for the trial was pre-defined and took into consideration the following: inflammation in the heart accompanied by an immune response, death due to abnormal heart rhythms, sudden death, repeat heart attack, treatment for symptoms of heart failure, need for a heart assist device, and need for a heart transplant. Both an independent Data and Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) and CIRM agreed that Phase I met its safety endpoint. Preliminary efficacy data from Phase I collected during the current reporting period showed evidence of improvements in scar size, a measure of damage in the heart, and ejection fraction, a measure of the heart’s ability to pump blood. At the end of the current reporting period, Phase II is still enrolling subjects and clinical trial sites are still being brought on for participation in the trial. Meanwhile, the manufacturing processes established continue to be employed to create cell products for use in Phase II. Manufacturing data and trial status updates were also provided to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as part of standard annual reporting.
  • This project aims to demonstrate both safety and efficacy of a heart-derived cell product in patients who have experienced a heart attack either recently or in the past by conducting a mid-stage (Phase II) clinical trial. The cell product is manufactured using heart tissue obtained from a healthy donor and can be used in most other individuals. Its effect is thought to be long-lasting (months-years) although it is expected to be cleared from the body relatively quickly (weeks-months). Treatment is administered during a single brief procedure, requiring a local anesthetic and insertion of a tube (or catheter) into the heart. The overriding goal for the product is to prevent patients who have had a heart attack from deteriorating over time and developing heart failure, a condition which is defined by the heart’s inability to pump blood efficiently and one which affects millions of Americans. At the outset of the project, a Phase I trial was underway. The Phase II trial was initiated in the previous reporting period and was ongoing at the beginning of the current reporting period. All subjects enrolled in Phase I completed follow up during the previous reporting period. Fourteen patients were treated with the heart-derived cell product as part of Phase I. The safety endpoint for the trial was pre-defined and took into consideration the following: inflammation in the heart accompanied by an immune response, death due to abnormal heart rhythms, sudden death, repeat heart attack, treatment for symptoms of heart failure, need for a heart assist device, and need for a heart transplant. Both an independent Data and Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) and CIRM agreed that Phase I met its safety endpoint. Preliminary efficacy data from Phase I showed evidence of improvements in scar size, a measure of damage in the heart, and ejection fraction, a measure of the heart’s ability to pump blood. Phase II will evaluate safety and efficacy similarly. At the end of the current reporting period, Phase II is still enrolling subjects and clinical trial sites are still being brought on for participation in the trial. Meanwhile, the manufacturing processes established continue to be employed to create cell products for use in Phase II. Manufacturing data and trial status updates were also provided to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as part of standard annual reporting.
Funding Type: 
Early Translational III
Grant Number: 
TR3-05559
Investigator: 
Name: 
Type: 
PI
ICOC Funds Committed: 
$1 857 600
Disease Focus: 
Heart Disease
Stem Cell Use: 
Embryonic Stem Cell
oldStatus: 
Active
Public Abstract: 

Heart failure is a major and ever-growing health problem affecting an estimated 5.8 million Americans with about half a million new cases every year. There are limited therapeutic options for heart failure. Heart transplantation is effective but has limited impact due to scarcity of donor organs and eventual immune rejection even under chronic immune suppression. Therefore, there is a clear unmet medical need to develop new effective therapies to treat heart failure. Human ES cell based cell therapy could provide a cure for heart diseases by providing renewable source of human cardiomyocytes (CMs) to restore lost cardiomyocytes and cardiac functions. In support of this notion, hESC-derived cardiomyocytes (hESC-CMs) can repopulate lost cardiac muscle and improve heart function in preclinical animal models of advanced heart failure. However, one key bottleneck hindering such clinic development is that hESC-CMs will be rejected by allogenic immune system of the recipients, and the typical immunosuppressant regimen is especially toxic for patients with heart diseases and leads to increased risk of cancer and infection. To resolve this bottleneck, I propose to develop a novel approach to protect the hESC-CMs from allogenic immune system. If successful, our approach will not only greatly improve the feasibility of developing hESC-CMs to treat heart failure but also has broad application in other hESC-based cell therapies for which allogenic immune rejection remains a major hurdle.

Statement of Benefit to California: 

Heart disease is a leading cause of death and disability among Californians with an above average rate of mortality. It costs the State tremendous expenditure for the treatment and loss of productivity. There are limited therapeutic options for advanced heart diseases. In this context, heart transplantation is effective but limited by the shortage of donors. Therefore, there is clearly an urgent unmet medical need for new and effective therapies to treat heart failure. Human ES cell based cell therapy approach offers the unique potential to provide renewable source of cardiomyocytes to treat heart failure by restoring lost cardiomyocytes and cardiac function. However, one key bottleneck is that the allogenic hESC-derived cardiomyocytes will be immune rejected by recipients, and the typical immunosuppression regimen is especially toxic for fragile patients with heart diseases. In addition, chronic immune suppression greatly increases the risk of cancer and infection. Our proposed research is aimed to develop novel strategies to prevent allogenic immune rejection of hESC-derived cardiomyocytes without inducing systemic immune suppression. If successful, our approach will greatly facilitate the development of hESC-derived cardiomyocytes for treating heart disease and also has broad application in other hESC-based therapy for which allogenic immune rejection remains a bottleneck.

Progress Report: 
  • Heart failure affects an estimated 5.8 million Americans with about half a million new cases every year. It is also one of the leading causes of death and loss of productivity in California. There is a clear unmet medical need to develop new therapies to treat patients with heart failure. Human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) can undergo unlimited self-renewal and retain the pluripotency to differentiate into all cell types in the body. Therefore, as a renewable source of various cell types in the body, hESCs hold great promise for the cell replacement therapy of many human diseases. In this context, significant progress has been made in the differentiation of hESCs into functional cardiomyocytes (CMs), providing the potential of cell replacement therapy to cure heart diseases through the restoration of lost cardiac function. However, one key bottleneck hindering the clinic development of hESC-derived CMs is that hESC-derived CMs will be rejected by allogenic immune system of the recipients, and the typical immunosuppressant regimen can be highly toxic for patients with heart diseases. To resolve this bottleneck and improve the feasibility of the hESC-based therapy of heart failure, we developed and validated a novel approach to protect the hESC-derived CMs from the allogenic human immune system in vivo.
  • Heart failure is a major disease in California with limited therapeutic options. It costs the State tremendous expenditure in treatment and loss in productivity. While heart transplant is effective in treating the disease, this option is limited by the scarcity of heart donors and the modest graft survival rate (50%) ten years after transplantation. With their unlimited self-renewal capability and pluripotency to differentiate into all cell types in the body, human ES cells (hESCs) hold great promise for human cell therapy. Therefore, cell therapy approaches with hESC-derived CMs have the unique potential for a cure by restoring lost CMs and cardiac function. Despite significant progress in differentiating hESCs into CMs that are capable of partially restoring heart functions in myocardia infarction (MI) animal models, one key bottleneck remaining is that the allogenic hESC-derived CMs will be immune rejected by the recipients, and the typical immunosuppression regimen is especially toxic for patients with advanced heart diseases. By developing a novel approach to prevent allogenic immune rejection of hESC-derived CMs without the typical immunosuppression, we showed that genetically modified hESCs can be efficiently differentiated into cardiomyocytes, which exhibit characteristic electric physiological properties and are protected from allogenic immune rejection.
  • Heart failure is a major disease in California with limited therapeutic options. It costs the State tremendous expenditure in treatment and loss in productivity. While heart transplant is effective in treating the disease, this option is limited by the scarcity of heart donors and the modest graft survival rate (50%) ten years after transplantation. With their unlimited self-renewal capability and pluripotency to differentiate into all cell types in the body, human ES cells (hESCs) hold great promise for human cell therapy. Therefore, cell therapy approaches with hESC-derived cardiomyocytes (CMs) have the unique potential for a cure by restoring lost CMs and cardiac function. Despite significant progress in differentiating hESCs into CMs that are capable of partially restoring heart functions in myocardial infarction (MI) animal models, one key bottleneck remaining is that the non recipient matched, or allogenic, hESC-derived CMs will be immune rejected by the recipients, and the typical immunosuppression regimen is especially toxic for patients with advanced heart diseases. Our research effort is to develop a novel approach to prevent allogenic immune rejection of hESC-derived CMs without the typical immunosuppression that induces systemic immune suppression.
  • We have developed hESC-CM that are resistant to allogeneic rejection and confirmed this property by performing allogeneic transplants using a humanized mouse model. This data suggests that our hESC-CM may act as universal donor heart cells for transplants into patients’ hearts. The ability of these cells to improve function of injured hearts will be tested in a preclinical model of myocardial infarction. This test will confirm the feasibility of our development candidate for further translation .”
  • During NCE period, we have made progress in achieving the goal to test whether cardiomyocytes derived from CTLA4-Ig/PD-L1 expressing hESCs are functional in a rat myocardial infarction model. We sent personnels to Dr. Charles Murry lab at University of Washington to obtain the expertise in transplanting hESC-derived cardiomyocytes into MI rat model, and are preparing to complete the research within the next three months.

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