Heart Disease

Coding Dimension ID: 
295
Coding Dimension path name: 
Heart Disease
Funding Type: 
Early Translational III
Grant Number: 
TR3-05626
Investigator: 
Type: 
PI
ICOC Funds Committed: 
$4 939 140
Disease Focus: 
Heart Disease
Stem Cell Use: 
Adult Stem Cell
oldStatus: 
Active
Public Abstract: 
An estimated 16.3 million Americans suffer from coronary heart disease. Every 25 seconds, someone has a coronary event and every minute, someone dies from one. Treatment for coronary heart disease has improved greatly in recent years, yet 1 in 6 deaths in the US in 2007 was still caused by this terrible disease. Stem cells have been used as an supplemental form of treatment but they have been most effective for patients treated immediately after their first heart attack. Unfortunately, stem cell therapy for chronic heart disease and heart failure has been less successful. With current delivery methods for stem cells into the heart, most are washed away quickly, whereas our device will hold them in the area that needs repair. With this project we are testing a novel approach to improve the benefits of stem cell therapy for patients suffering from chronic heart disease. By applying a type of bone marrow stem cells known to enhance tissue repair (mesenchymal stem cells) to a biological scaffold, we hope to greatly amplify the beneficial properties of both the stem cells and the biological scaffold. This device will be implanted onto an appropriate preclinical model that have been treated so as to mirror the chronic heart disease seen in humans. We predict that this novel device will heal the damaged heart and improve its function to pave the way for a superior treatment option for the thousands of Americans for whom the unlikely prospect of a heart transplant is currently the only hope.
Statement of Benefit to California: 
Heart disease is the number one cause of death and disability in California and in the US as a whole. An estimated 16.3 million Americans over the age of 20 suffer from coronary heart disease (CHD) with an estimated associated cost of $177.5 billion and CHD accounted for 1 in 6 deaths in the US in 2007. Advances in treatment have decreased early mortality but consequently lead to an increase in the incidences of heart failure (HF). Patients with HF have a 50 percent readmission rate within six months, which is a heavy cost both in terms of quality of life and finances. The high cost of caring for patients with HF results primarily from frequent hospital readmissions for exacerbations. The need for efficient treatment strategies that address the underlying cause, massive loss of functional myocardium, is yet to be met. We believe that present project proposal, development of a combined mesenchymal stem cell and extra cellular matrix scaffold device, will lead to improved standards of care for patients suffering from chronic myocardial infarction who are thus at risk of developing HF. By not only retarding disease progression but by actually restoring cardiac function, we believe that the proposed project will have a tremendous impact on both the cost of care as well as the quality of life for large groups of Californians and patients worldwide for whom the improbable prospect of heart transplantation is the only curative treatment option available.
Progress Report: 
  • Heart disease is a major cause of death and disability in the US, accounting for 1 in every 4 deaths and costing more than 100 billion annually. While significant improvements have been made towards treating and managing heart disease, we are still not able to effectively return the heart to a healthy state and cure the patients. With our project we have set out to develop a novel strategy for not only halting the disease progression but to reverse the devastating effect on the function of the heart. By combining bone marrow mesenchymal stromal cells with a biological scaffold material, we hope to create a patch for the heart that will support and regenerate the diseased tissue to the point where the patient will be relieved of the burden of their disease and have a markedly improve quality of life. We have in the past year made significant advances toward establishing an animal disease model in which we can study novel ways of treating heart disease. We have in the same time isolated and characterized cells that reside in the bone marrow and that have the potential to heal the diseased tissue by improving blood flow, minimize scarring and generally promoting recovery of the heart function. We have studies these cells under when grown under different conditions and found their ability to mediate tissue regeneration to be highly dependent on their local environments. We are currently trying to identify the optimal combination of cells and microenvironment that may achieve maximal regenerative effect in our disease model and ultimately help our patient combat their heart disease.
  • Cardiovascular diseases remain the leading cause of death and disability in the United States. Even with optimal intervention, patients that suffer from an initial coronary event are prone to development of ischemic heart disease (IHD). Current therapies for IHD such medication, percutaneous coronary intervention, anticoagulants, and coronary artery bypass grafting are incapable of rescuing necrotic tissue and recovering normal cardiac function. The only current curative therapy is heart transplantation; however donor organ supply is severely limited and the vast majority of patients die from congestive heart failure while on the transplant waiting list.
  • Cellular therapies are being explored as a potential cure for IHD. In the majority of these trials, cells are injected in suspension into either vasculature or directly into the ischemic myocardium. Clinical outcomes have clearly demonstrated the safety of these cell based therapies. However, clinical improvements have been modest at best, ostensibly due to poor long term donor cells survival and retention.
  • Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are an attractive allogeneic stem cell source for cardiac regenerative therapies. MSCs are considered to be immunoprivileged in that they modulate and evade the host immune microenvironment, thus making them ideal candidates for allogeneic transplantation. MSCs also facilitate regeneration by secreting angiogenic and chemotactic factors that facilitate new blood vessel formation and recruitment of host stem and progenitor cells.
  • Porcine small intestinal submucosa extracellular matrix (SIS-ECM) is a bioscaffold produced from the small intestine of pigs. It has been found to exert a variety of beneficial pro-regenerative functions, hereunder modulating the chemotactic and immune response and releasing large amounts of pro-angiogenic factors. SIS-ECM is ideal in surgical applications as a replacement for synthetic materials in that it facilitates site specific regeneration and resorbs into native tissue without a need for later removal.
  • The overall goal of this project is to generate a MSC seeded SIS-ECM device for the treatment of IHD. The hypothesis is that the combination of MSCs and SIS-ECM will produce a device with regenerative properties that exceed either component alone. We will with this project develop a porcine myocardial infarct (MI) model that mimics the hallmarks of the human disease. We will then test the proposed device in this model and monitor functional improvement as compared to control animals and animals receiving cells or SIS-ECM alone. We will also verify in vitro that human and porcine MSCs are phenotypically and functionally equivalent to confirm that the results obtained in our porcine model are relevant for the human setting with a high probability. Finally, we will explore mechanisms of action in vitro in relevant assay and in vivo in rat myocardial infarct models.
  • Major accomplishments in this reporting period:
  • 1. We successfully established a reproducible porcine chronic MI model (CMI) and an acute myocardial infarct (AMI) model. We tested two routes of delivery, epicardial patch and intramyocardial injection. We also optimized orientation and seeding density of the device as well as telemetry implantation in a non-injury porcine sternotomy model. We conclude that the CMI model is well suited for the upcoming studies where we will transplantation our device as an epicardial patch with the MSC seeded side facing the epicardium and seeded below maximal capacity to be the favored approach.
  • 2. We found that MSCs from human and porcine bone marrow samples can readily be isolated, expanded and banked using identical methodology. We created master cell banks from three donors for each species. We additionally generated working cell banks of eGFP and Luciferase overexpressing MSCs for both species. We furthermore confirmed, again using identical methodology that both human and porcine MSCs are analogous with respect to tri-lineage potential, cells surface marker expression and karyotype. Moreover, these major MSC hallmarks are not altered in response to seeding onto SIS-ECM. Finally, we are completing similar studies for rat MSCs
  • 3. We have confirmed that human and porcine MSCs are analogous in the expression pattern of angiogenic factors. We also found that the migratory effect of culture supernatants from human or porcine MSCs seeded onto plastic or SIS-ECM is comparable. Additionally, we found that secretion levels of inflammatory cytokines and in vitro tube formation from culture supernatant was comparable for human MSCs seeded on plastic or SIS-ECM. We furthermore established an AMI model in both immune competent and immune deficient rats. Using these models we have demonstrated significant disease modifying effects of the rat DC analogue as compared to SIS-ECM or MSCs alone. Finally we found improved cell retention at the site of implant for our human DC in the immune deficient SCID rat AMI model.
Funding Type: 
Early Translational III
Grant Number: 
TR3-05556
Investigator: 
Name: 
Institution: 
Type: 
PI
Type: 
Partner-PI
ICOC Funds Committed: 
$4 766 231
Disease Focus: 
Heart Disease
Collaborative Funder: 
Germany
Stem Cell Use: 
Embryonic Stem Cell
oldStatus: 
Active
Public Abstract: 
Heart disease is the number one cause of morbidity and mortality in the US. With an estimated 1.5 million new or recurrent myocardial infarctions, the total economic burden on our health care system is enormous. Although conventional pharmacotherapy and surgical interventions often improve cardiac function and quality of life, many patients continue to develop refractory symptoms. Thus, the development of new therapies is urgently needed. “Tissue engineering” can be broadly defined as the application of novel bioengineering methods to understand complex structure-function relationships in normal or pathological conditions and the development of biological substitutes to restore, maintain, or improve function. It is different from “cell therapy”, which is designed to improve the function of an injured tissue by simply injecting suspensions of isolated cells into the injury site. To date, two main limitations of cell therapy are (1) acute donor cell death due to unfavorable seeding environment and (2) the lack of suitable cell type that genuinely resembles human cardiac cells. Our proposal seeks to use engineered tissue patches seeded with human embryonic stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes for treatment of ischemic heart disease in small and large animal models. It represents a significant development of novel techniques to address both of the main limitations of cell therapy, and will provide a new catalyst for the entire field of stem cell-based tissue engineering.
Statement of Benefit to California: 
Patients with end-stage heart failure have a 2-year survival rate of 25% by conventional medical therapy. Not commonly known to the public is that this dismal survival rate is actually worse when compared to patients with AIDS, liver cirrhosis, or stroke. Following a heart failure, the endogenous repair process is not sufficient to compensate for cardiomyocyte death. Thus, novel therapies with stem cells in combination with supportive scaffolds to form engineered cardiac tissue grafts is emerging as a promising therapeutic avenue. Engineered tissues have now been used to make new bladders for patients needing cystoplasty, bioarticial heart patches seeded with bone marrow cells, and more recently new trachea for patient with late stage tracheal cancer. Our multi-disciplinary team intends to push the therapeutic envelop by developing human tissue engineered myocardium for treatment of post-myocardial infarction heart failure. We will first test our engineered cardiac tissue in small and large animal models. We will perform extensive quality control measures to define morphological, molecular, and functional properties. At the end of 3 years, we are confident we will be able to derive a lead candidate that can move into IND-enabling preclinical development. These discoveries will benefit the millions of patients with heart failure in California and globally.
Progress Report: 
  • Despite advances in medical and device therapies, patients with end-stage heart failure have a survival rate of only 25% during the first 2 years following their diagnosis. Heart failure typically follows from damage induced by severe myocardial infarction (MI; heart attack). After a severe MI, the human heart may lose up to 1 billion heart muscle cells (cardiomyocytes). For most of these patients, heart transplantation is the only useful therapy, but there is a severe shortage of donor hearts. Recently, left ventricular assist devices (LVADs) have become available to take over the pumping function of the crucial left ventricle chamber of the heart. These devices were originally used as “bridge to transplant” (a temporary measure to keep patients alive until a new heart became available); recently some patients have received LVADs as “destination therapies” (permanent substitutes for transplanted hearts). The problems associated with these mechanical implants, however, include increased risk of stroke (blood clots that form due to the devices) and infection (the LVADs are powered from batteries that are carried outside the body and require wires to pierce the skin).
  • We are working to develop cardiac regenerative medicine using Engineered Heart Muscle (EHM). We are using human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) because they can be grown in very large quantities and, with the appropriate methods, can be triggered to differentiate into the cardiomyocytes, fibroblasts and smooth muscle that are lost after MI. Because these cells can be produced in essentially unlimited quantities, we could theoretically treat a very large number of patients who currently have no options.
  • During the first year of this project, we have a) established methods for producing the multi-billion quantities of hESC-derived cells needed to address this problem; b) developed methods to freeze and ship these cells to our collaborator in Germany for EHM assembly, and c) used these cells to generate 2 different forms of EHMs to compare their survival and function both in vitro (composition, force generated) and in vivo (after transplantation into rats that have been given MIs). We are now refining the EHM design with the goal of moving forward to testing them in animals with more human-like hearts (based on size and heart rate); this step will be essential to evaluate their safety and function before any clinical trial.
  • The project “Heart Repair with Human Tissue Engineered Myocardium” is designed to find a new option for the treatment of heart failure. Because of the shortage of donor hearts, many patients in need never receive this life-saving therapy. We are generating engineered heart muscles (EHMs) that are made from cardiomyocytes (heart muscle cells) derived from human embryonic stem cells. The ultimate goal of this work is to produce a beating human heart “patch” that can be transplanted onto damaged hearts, and help restore function.
  • Through the joint efforts of researchers in Dr. Joseph Wu’s laboratory at Stanford and Dr. Larry Couture’s team at City of Hope, we have developed a process that allows essentially unlimited generation of cardiomyocytes using a process that is fully compatible with eventual clinical use. Our collaborator at Gottingen University, Dr. Wolfram Zimmerman, uses these cells to produce EHMs, which are then shipped to Stanford. At Stanford, the EHMs are evaluated for their structure, overall health, and ability to generate force as measured in vitro. These EHMs are also transplanted into rodents that have been given heart attacks, to see if the EHMs can survive and improve heart function.
  • In the first year of this project, we compared different methods of making EHMs and the results that could be measured both in vitro and in vivo. We established a model of heart disease in rats with defective immune systems (necessary for the survival of human cells/tissues in this extremely foreign setting). We found that a specific grid-like patch design was both easier to construct than other options and was able to survive in the rat model of heart disease.
  • In the 2nd year, we focused on this patch design and performed a larger number of transplants. Using EHMs made from genetically engineered cells that give off a fluorescent signal, we were able to track the long-term survival of the EHMs (at least 7 months) without having to sacrifice many of the animals. Our analysis of the transplanted EHMs showed that they had survived transplantation and had taken on characteristics that made them closer to normal heart tissue. In addition, EHM transplantation resulted in improved heart function, as compared to rats that either received no transplants or received a control EHM transplant that contained dead cells.
  • The next phase of our project will be to evaluate the function of larger EHMs in swine model of heart disease, since these animals have hearts that are similar in size and heart rate to humans. This is a crucial step before considering translating this work into human patients.
Funding Type: 
Early Translational III
Grant Number: 
TR3-05593
Investigator: 
ICOC Funds Committed: 
$6 319 110
Disease Focus: 
Heart Disease
Stem Cell Use: 
Directly Reprogrammed Cell
oldStatus: 
Active
Public Abstract: 
Heart disease is a leading cause of mortality. The underlying pathology is typically loss of heart muscle cells that leads to heart failure. Because heart muscle has little or no regenerative capacity after birth, current therapeutic approaches are limited for the over 5 million Americans who suffer from heart failure. Our recent findings regarding direct reprogramming of a type of structural cell of the heart, called fibroblasts, into cardiac muscle-like cells using just three genes offers a novel approach to achieving cardiac regeneration. 50% of cells in the human heart are cardiac fibroblasts, providing a potential source of new heart muscle cells for regenerative therapy. We simulated a heart attack in mice by blocking the coronary artery, and have been able to reprogram existing mouse cardiac fibroblasts in to new muscle by delivering the three genes into the heart. We found a significant reduction in scar size and an improvement in cardiac function that persists after injury. The reprogramming of cells in the intact organ was more complete than in cells in a dish. We now propose to develop the optimal gene therapy approach to introduce cardiac reprogramming genes into the heart, to establish the optimal delivery approach to administer virus encoding cardiac reprogramming factors that results in improvement in cardiac function in a preclinical model of cardiac injury, and to establish the safety profile of in vivo cardiac reprogramming in a preclinical model.
Statement of Benefit to California: 
This research will benefit the state of California and its citizens by helping develop a new therapeutic approach to cardiac regeneration. Heart disease is a leading cause of death in adults and children in California, but there is no current treatment that can promote cardiac regeneration. This proposal will lay the groundwork for a clinical trial that could result in generation of new heart muscle cells from within the heart. If successful, there is potential economic benefit in terms of productive lives saved and in the commercialization of this technology.
Progress Report: 
  • Heart disease is a leading cause of mortality. The underlying pathology is typically loss of heart muscle cells that leads to heart failure. Because heart muscle has little or no regenerative capacity after birth, current therapeutic approaches are limited for the over 5 million Americans who suffer from heart failure. Our recent findings regarding direct reprogramming of a type of structural cell of the heart, called fibroblasts, into cardiac muscle-like cells using just three genes offers a novel approach to achieving cardiac regeneration. 50% of cells in the human heart are cardiac fibroblasts, providing a potential source of new heart muscle cells for regenerative therapy. We simulated a heart attack in mice by blocking the coronary artery, and have been able to reprogram existing mouse cardiac fibroblasts into new muscle by delivering the three genes into the heart. We found a significant reduction in scar size and an improvement in cardiac function that persists after injury. The reprogramming of cells in the intact organ was more complete than in cells in a dish. We now identified a combination of factors that reprogram human and pig cardiac fibroblasts and are optimizing a gene therapy approach to introduce cardiac reprogramming genes into the heart of pigs. In a pig model of cardiac injury, these factors were able to convert non-muscle cells into new muscle in the area of injury. We also found a viral vector that can preferentially infect the fibroblasts compare to the muscle cells. We are now in a position to test for functional improvement in pigs.
  • Heart disease is a leading cause of mortality. The underlying pathology is typically loss of heart muscle cells that leads to heart failure. Because heart muscle has little or no regenerative capacity after birth, current therapeutic approaches are limited for the over 5 million Americans who suffer from heart failure. Our recent findings regarding direct reprogramming of a type of structural cell of the heart, called fibroblasts, into cardiac muscle-like cells using just three genes offers a novel approach to achieving cardiac regeneration. We simulated a heart attack in mice by blocking the coronary artery, and have regenerated damaged hearts by converting existing mouse cardiac fibroblasts into new muscle by delivering the three genes into the heart. We have found that a combination of the three genes used in mice plus two additional factors were sufficient to identified to reprogram human and pig cardiac fibroblasts and are optimizing a gene therapy approach to introduce cardiac reprogramming genes into the heart of pigs. In a pig model of cardiac injury, we identified the optimal combination of factors that was able to convert non-muscle cells into new muscle in the area of injury. We have completed a pilot study of these five factors for functional improvement using MRI to measure cardiac output 3 days after injury and 2 months after treatment with the reprogramming factors. We also found a viral vector that can preferentially infect the fibroblasts compare to the muscle cells and have confirmed this activity. We are now testing for functional improvement in pigs using various viral vectors.
Funding Type: 
Disease Team Therapy Planning I
Grant Number: 
DR2-05394
Investigator: 
Institution: 
Type: 
PI
ICOC Funds Committed: 
$108 895
Disease Focus: 
Heart Disease
oldStatus: 
Closed
Public Abstract: 
Patients with end-stage heart failure (ESHF) have a 2-year survival rate of 50% with conventional medical therapy. This dismal survival rate is actually significantly worse than patients with AIDS, liver cirrhosis, stroke, and other debilitating diseases. Stem cell therapy may be a promising strategy for inducing myocardial regeneration via paracrine activation, prevention of cardiac apoptosis, and other mechanisms. Several studies have convincingly shown that human embryonic stem cells can be differentiated into cardiomyocytes (hESC-CMs) and that these cells can be used to effectively improve cardiac function following myocardial infarction (MI). The objectives of this CIRM Disease Team Therapy proposal are two-fold: (1) to perform IND enabling studies involving hESC-CM for subsequent FDA approval and (2) to complete a Phase I trial with ESHF patients undergoing the left ventricular assist device (LVAD) procedure whereby hESC-CMs will be injected at the same time.
Statement of Benefit to California: 
Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the number one cause of mortality and morbidity in the US. Following myocardial infarction (MI), the limited ability of the surviving cardiac cells to proliferate thereafter renders the damaged heart susceptible to dangerous consequences such as heart failure. In recent years, stem cell therapy has emerged as a promising candidate for treating ischemic heart disease. In contrast to adult stem cells, human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) have the advantage of being pluripotent, which endows them with the ability to differentiate into virtually every cell type. Numerous studies have demonstrated that hESC-derived cardiomyocytes (hESC-CMs) can improve cardiac function in small and large animal models. In addition, the FDA has approved hESC-derived oligodendrocyte progenitor cells for patients with acute spinal cord injury and hESC-derived retinal pigment epithelial cells for patients with Stargardt’s macular dystrophy. Hence the conventional controversies and regulatory hurdles related to hESC-based trials are no longer major barriers to the field. In this proposal, we seek to extend and translate the robust pre-clinical data into clinical reality by demonstrating the safety and feasibility of hESC-CM transplantation. We will perform careful IND-enabling research in the first 3 years. Afterwards, our medical teams will initiate a phase 1 clinical trial involving 10 patients with end stage heart failure (ESHF). We will perform direct intramyocardial injection of hESC-CMs in ESHF patients undergoing left ventricular assist device (LVAD) implantation as a bridge toward orthotopic heart transplantation (OHT). After the patients have received matching donor hearts, the native recipient hearts will be explanted. This will provide us an opportunity to carefully assess the fate of these cells and to ensure safety before we can embark on a larger clinical trial in Years 5-10.
Progress Report: 
  • Patients with end-stage heart failure (ESHF) have a 2-year survival rate of 50% with conventional medical therapy. This dismal survival rate is actually significantly worse than patients with AIDS, liver cirrhosis, stroke, and other debilitating diseases. Stem cell therapy may be a promising strategy for inducing myocardial regeneration via paracrine activation, prevention of cardiac apoptosis, and other mechanisms. Several studies have convincingly shown that human embryonic stem cells can be differentiated into cardiomyocytes (hESC-CMs) and that these cells can be used to effectively improve cardiac function following myocardial infarction (MI). Over the past year, we have assembled a strong multi-disciplinary team and applied for the CIRM Disease Team Therapy proposal.
Funding Type: 
Disease Team Therapy Planning I
Grant Number: 
DR2-05434
Investigator: 
Institution: 
Type: 
PI
ICOC Funds Committed: 
$106 239
Disease Focus: 
Heart Disease
oldStatus: 
Closed
Public Abstract: 
This application seeks to bring to the clinic a new treatment for myocardial disease based on human embryonic stem cell (hESC) derived cardiomyocytes. hESC-cardiomyocytes have the unique potential to address the underlying cause of heart disease by repopulating areas of damaged myocardium (heart tissue) with viable cardiac cells. This therapeutic approach represents a potential breakthrough in heart disease treatment, serving one of the most intractable, largest, and most costly unmet clinical needs in the U.S. Currently available heart disease treatments have demonstrated ability to slow progression of the disease, but to date none can restore the key underlying defect in heart failure, a loss of contractile function. Cell therapy approaches have generated excitement for their unique potential to play a curative role in myocardial disease through the restoration of lost contractile and/or circulatory function. hESC-cardiomyocytes are unique amongst the cell therapy approaches in that they are a human cardiomyocyte (heart muscle cell) product; replacing damaged myocardium with viable heart cells which can integrate and form fully functional cardiac tissue. This approach has the potential to significantly halt or reverse cardiac functional decline. These benefits can significantly impact patient medication requirements and hospitalizations associated with ongoing cardiac decline, key drivers of the enormous health care costs associated with heart failure. The proposed scope of this project includes activities leading up to and including a regulatory filing with the FDA to initiate clinical testing of hESC-cardiomyocytes for the treatment of heart failure, as well as the enrollment and initial follow-up of a small cohort of patients in a first-in-human trial. The proposed product has completed extensive process development, product characterization, and preclinical (animal model studies) proof-of-concept studies to date. The scope of the proposed research includes: (i) performance of key preclinical safety and efficacy studies to enable entry to clinical testing (ii) manufacture of material for use in preclinical studies, development work, and clinical testing (iii) development and qualification of assays for product characterization, and (iv) preparation for and execution of initial clinical studies.
Statement of Benefit to California: 
The proposed project has the potential to benefit the state of California through 1) providing improved medical outcomes for patients with heart disease, 2) increasing California’s leadership in the emerging field of stem cell research, and 3) preserving and creating high quality, high paying jobs for Californians. Heart disease is one of the most intractable, wide-spread, and fatal diseases in the U.S. More than 5.8 million Americans currently suffer from heart failure; close to 60% of heart failure patients die within 5 years of diagnosis. Although specific statistics are not available for California, they are likely similar to those nationwide, with incidence of more than 10 in 1000 individuals >65 years of age (AHA, 2010). Currently available heart disease therapies have demonstrated the ability to slow disease progression, but to date none can restore the key underlying defect leading to heart failure, a loss of cardiac contractile function. Cell therapy, an approach to regenerate or repair the damaged heart with new cells, addresses this fundamental need, and is considered one of the most important and promising frontiers for the treatment of heart disease. Although multiple other cell therapy products are currently being evaluated for the treatment of heart disease, human embryonic stem cell derived cardiomyocytes have unique potential to address the underlying defect of loss of contractile activity in heart failure, by replacing scarred or damaged heart tissue with new, functional human heart cells to restore cardiac function. California has a history of leadership in biotechnology, and is emerging as a leader in the development of stem cell therapeutics. Cutting edge stem cell research, in many cases funded by CIRM, is already underway in academic research laboratories and biotechnology companies throughout the state. The proposed project has the potential to further increase California’s leadership in the field of stem cell therapeutics through the performance of the first clinical testing of an hESC-derived cardiac cell therapy. The applicant has been located in California since its inception, and currently employs nearly 200 full-time employees at its California headquarters with more than 50% of employees holding an advanced degree. These positions are highly skilled positions, offering competitive salaries and comprehensive benefits. The successful performance of the proposed project would enable significant additional jobs creation as the program progresses through more advanced clinical testing.
Funding Type: 
Disease Team Therapy Planning I
Grant Number: 
DR2-05423
Investigator: 
Name: 
Type: 
PI
ICOC Funds Committed: 
$76 861
Disease Focus: 
Heart Disease
oldStatus: 
Closed
Public Abstract: 
Critical limb ischemia (CLI) represents a significant unmet medical need without any approved medical therapies for patients who fail surgical or angioplasty procedures to restore blood flow to the lower leg. CLI affects 2 million people in the U.S. and is associated with an increased risk of leg amputation and death. Amputation rates in patients not suitable for surgery or angioplasty are reported to be up to 30-50% after 1 year. Patients who are not eligible for revascularization procedures are managed with palliative care, but would be candidates for the proposed phase I clinical trial. In an effort to combat CLI, prior and ongoing clinical trials that our group and others have conducted have evaluated direct injection of purified growth factors into the limb that has low blood flow. Some trials have tested plasmids that would produce the blood vessel growth factors for a short period of time. These therapies did show benefit in early stage clinical trials but were not significantly better than controls in Phase III (late stage) trials, probably due to the short duration of presence of the growth factors and their inability to spread to the areas most needed. Other clinical trials ongoing in our vascular center and others are testing the patient’s own stem cells, moved from the bone marrow to the damaged limb, and those studies are showing some benefit, although the final assessments are not yet completed. Stem cells can have benefit in limb ischemia because they can actively seek out areas of low oxygen and will produce some growth factors to try to encourage blood vessel growth. But in cases where the circulation needs very high levels of rescue, this strategy might not be enough. As an improved strategy we are combining the stem cell and growth factor approaches to make a more potent therapy. We have engineered human Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs) to produce high levels of the strong angiogenic agent VEGF for this novel approach (MSC/VEGF). We and others have documented over the past 20+ years that MSC are capable of sustained expression of growth factors, migrate into the areas of lowest oxygen in the tissues after injection, and wrap around the damaged or tiny blood vessels to secrete their factors where they are needed most. These MSC/VEGF cells are highly potent, safe and effective in our preclinical studies. These human stem cells designed to produce VEGF as “paramedic delivery vehicles armed with growth factor to administer” rapidly restored blood flow to the limbs of rodents who had zero circulation in one leg. With funding that could be potentially obtained through the proposed application we will follow the detailed steps to move this candidate therapy into clinical trials, and will initiate and complete an early phase clinical trial to test safety and potential efficacy of this product that is designed to save limbs from amputation.
Statement of Benefit to California: 
Critical Limb Ischemia (CLI) represents a significant unmet medical need without any curative therapies in its end stages, after even the best revascularization attempts using sophisticated catheters, stents, and bypass surgeries have failed. CLI affects over 2 million people in the US and the prevalence is increasing due to the aging of our population and the diabetes epidemic. In 2007, the treatment of diabetes and its complications in the USA generated $116 billion in direct costs; at least 33% of these costs were linked to the treatment of ischemic foot ulcers, associated with CLI. Once a patient develops CLI in a limb, the risk of needing amputation of the other limb is 50% after 6 years, with devastating consequences. Treatment costs are immense and lives are significantly shortened by this morbid disease. The symptoms associated with this very severe form of lower extremity peripheral artery disease (PAD) are pain in the foot at rest, non- healing ulcers, limb/digital gangrene and delayed wound healing. The quality of life for those with CLI is extremely poor and reported to be similar to that of patients with end stage malignancy. Most patients with CLI will undergo repeat hospitalizations and surgical/endovascular procedures in an effort to preserve the limb, progress to immobility and need constant care. Unfortunately, the limb salvage efforts are often not effective enough, and despite multiple attempts at revascularization, the wounds still fail to heal. The final stage in 25% of cases is limb amputation, which is associated with a high mortality rate within 6 months. Amputation rates in patients not suitable for revascularization are reported to be up to 30-50% after 1 year. Fewer than half of all CLI patients achieve full mobility after an amputation and only one in four above-the-knee amputees will ever wear a prosthesis. Between 199– 1999, over 28,000 first time lower extremity bypass procedures were performed in California for CLI, and 29% of patients were admitted to the hospital for at least one subsequent bypass operation or revision procedure. The 5-year amputation free survival rate for this group of CLI patients from California was only 51.1%. The direct costs to California for the treatment of CLI and diabetic ischemic ulcers are substantial. The lost ability of no-option CLI patients to remain in the CA workforce, to support their families, and to pay taxes causes additional financial strain on the state’s economy. The goal of the proposed study is to develop and apply a safe and effective stem cell therapy to save limbs from amputation due to disorders of the vasculature that currently cannot be cured. The successful implementation of our planned therapies will significantly reduce the cost of healthcare in California and could bring people currently unable to work due to immobility back to the workforce and active lifestyles, with a significantly improved quality of life.
Progress Report: 
  • A) Pre-clinical: The remainder of the IND-enabling studies for the development candidate MSC/VEGF were designed in consultation with Biologics Consulting Group (BCG). The project will begin with the IND-enabling phase and transition through regulatory approvals and through the Phase I clinical trial. The project has a Preclinical unit under the leadership of co-PI Dr. Jan Nolta, and a Clinical unit under the leadership of PI Dr. John Laird. The two units are well integrated, since the team has been meeting frequently since 2008 to plan the testing of the current and prior development candidates. The team is currently performing a Phase I stem cell therapy to test a medical device, as the result of those interactions. During the planning phase we met weekly, and worked continually on the MSC/VEGF project.
  • Co-PI Jan Nolta, Ph.D. is Scientific Director of the UC Davis/CIRM GMP Facility. Dr. Nolta’s team is expert in translational applications of gene-modified MSC at the level of GLP. The Pre-Clinical team is performing all IND-enabling studies for MSC/VEGF, and will manufacture and qualify the MSC and MSC/VEGF products in the GMP facility at UC Davis that is directed by Dr. Bauer (CMC lead). These studies are ongoing and we have been advised by BCG consulting lead Andra Miller, who was formerly Gene Therapy Group Leader at the FDA, CBER, Division of Cell and Gene Therapies. BCG is assisting with preIND preparation, through the planning grant period funding for this project.
  • B) Clinical: The Clinical team is led by PI John Laird MD, Medical Director of the UCD Vascular Center, who is an internationally recognized leader in the field of peripheral vascular interventions. He is the PI for multicenter and multinational trials to evaluate novel treatments for peripheral arterial disease. He has led clinical trials investigating the use of FGF-1, Hif, and VEGF to treat claudication and CLI. Christy Pifer is the experienced Project Manager who will guide the entire process. She is the Vascular Center’s clinical trials manager and orchestrates accrual of patients to all trials, including one ongoing Phase I stem cell clinical trial and another pending, as well as a Phase III gene transfer clinical trial. Ms. Pifer has coordinated over 100 Phase I, II and III clinical trials over the past 12 years. The planning grant allowed Ms. Pifer to contribute significant amounts of time to conducting meetings and designing the clinical study with Dr. Laird and other Vascular Center faculty. We had weekly meetings with the clinical and translational team members to finalize the CIRM Disease Team Grant Application.
  • C) Consultant meetings conducted through the Planning Grant Mechanism:
  • - Paragon was chosen as our CRO for the proposed trial. We had on-site meetings and conference calls with Paragon during the planning phase.
  • - Our consultant Dr. Andy Balber, was a Founder, and for ten years served as the CSO of Aldagen, Inc. At Aldagen since 2000, he helped the Company establish and maintain a clinical program during which patients were treated with stem cell products under seven cleared INDs. Dr. Balber has assisted our team with preparation of the preIND application, and will assist with further dialog with the FDA. We met frequently through conference call and email, and he edited our Disease Teams Grant proposal.
  • - Andra Miller, Director, Cell and Gene Therapy, Biologics Consulting Group, Inc, is a consultant for the development of regulatory strategies to facilitate rapid development of our cell and gene based therap. She and her team are providing support for CMC submission, pre-IND, RAC and IND preparation, Phase I product development strategies and assessment of cGLP compliance. Dr. Miller was Gene Therapy Group Leader for the Division of Cellular and Gene Therapies, Office of Therapeutics of FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, for ten years. We met through conference call and email during the Planning Grant period and she edited our Disease Teams grant application.
  • Partner PI group: Dr. Herrera from the Reina Sofia Hospital, Cordoba University, Andalucia, is our partner, identified through the planning grant phase. Her team is currently performing clinical trials of MSC injections for CLI using intra-arterial administration. Now, using the strong development candidate MSC/VEGF, the two teams will each embark upon parallel clinical trials in their respective countries, each capitalizing on their own team’s stem cell delivery strengths to patients at the same stage of no option CLI. The two teams will use similar inclusion and exclusion criteria and will work closely together, if funded, to develop Phase I trials that are highly similar except for the route of injection. We had Skype and conference call meetings with interpreters, and frequent email contact during the Planning Grant phase. This partnership would not have been possible without the CIRM Planning Award.
Funding Type: 
Basic Biology III
Grant Number: 
RB3-05129
Investigator: 
Name: 
Institution: 
Type: 
PI
ICOC Funds Committed: 
$1 425 600
Disease Focus: 
Heart Disease
Stem Cell Use: 
iPS Cell
Cell Line Generation: 
iPS Cell
oldStatus: 
Active
Public Abstract: 
Familial hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is the leading cause of sudden cardiac death in young people, including trained athletes, and is the most common inherited heart defect. Until now, studies in humans with HCM have been limited by a variety of factors, including variable environmental stimuli which may differ between individuals (e.g., diet, exercise, and lifestyle), the relative difficulty in obtaining human cardiac samples, and inadequate methods of maintaining human heart tissue in cell culture systems. Cellular reprogramming methods that enable derivation of human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) from adult cells, which can then be differentiated into cardiomyocytes (hiPSC-CMs), are a revolutionary tool for creating disease-specific cell lines that may lead to effective targeted therapies. In this proposal, we will derive hiPSC-CMs from patients with HCM and healthy controls, then perform a battery of functional and molecular tests to determine the presence of cardiomyopathic disease and associated abnormal molecular programs. With these preliminary studies, we believe hiPSC-CMs with HCM phenotype will dramatically enhance the ability to perform future high-throughput drug screens, evaluate gene and cell therapies, and assess novel electrophysiologic interventions for potential new therapies of HCM. Because HCM is not a rare disease but rather the leading cause of inherited heart defects, we believe the findings here should have broad clinical and scientific impact toward understanding the molecular and cellular basis of HCM.
Statement of Benefit to California: 
Familial hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is the leading cause of sudden cardiac death in young people and is the most common inherited heart defect. In this study, we will generate hiPSC-derived cardiomyocytes from patients with HCM, then perform a number of functional, molecular, bioinformatic, and imaging analyses to determine the extent and nature of cardiomyopathic disease. We believe hiPSC-CMs with HCM phenotype will dramatically enhance the ability to perform future high-throughput drug screens, evaluate gene and cell therapies, and assess electrophysiologic interventions for potential novel therapies of HCM. The experiments outlined are pertinent and central to the overall mission of CIRM, which seeks to explore the use of stem cell platforms to yield novel mechanistic insights into the molecular and cellular basis of disease. Because HCM is not an orphan disease, but rather the leading cause of sudden cardiac death in young people, we believe the research findings will benefit the state of California and its citizens.
Progress Report: 
  • Familial hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is the leading cause of sudden cardiac death in young people, including trained athletes, and is the most common inherited heart defect. In this proposal, we will generate human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes (iPSC-CMs) from patients with HCM. The specific aims are as follow:
  • Specific Aim 1: Generate iPSCs from patients with HCM and healthy controls.
  • Specific Aim 2: Determine the extent of disease by performing molecular and functional analyses of hiPSC-CMs.
  • Specific Aim 3: Rescue the molecular and functional phenotypes using zinc finger nuclease (ZFN) technology.
  • Over the past year, we have now derived iPSCs from a 10-patient family cohort with the MYH7 mutation. Established iPSC lines from all subjects were differentiated into cardiomyocyte lineages (iPSC-CMs) using standard 3D EB differentiation protocols. We found hypertrophic iPSC-CMs exhibited features of HCM such as cellular enlargement and multi-nucleation beginning in the sixth week following induction of cardiac differentiation. We also found hypertrophic iPSC-CMs demonstrated other hallmarks of HCM including expression of atrial natriuretic factor (ANF), elevation of β-myosin/α-myosin ratio, calcineurin activation, and nuclear translocation of nuclear factor of activated T-cells (NFAT) as detected by immunostaining. Blockade of calcineurin-NFAT interaction in HCM iPSC-CMs by cyclosporin A (CsA) and FK506 reduced hypertrophy by over 40%. In the absence of inhibition, NFAT-activated mediators of hypertrophy such as GATA4 and MEF2C were found to be significantly upregulated in HCM iPSC-CMs beginning day 40 post-induction of cardiac differentiation, but not prior to this point. Taken together, these results indicate that calcineurin-NFAT signaling plays a central role in the development of the HCM phenotype as caused by the Arg663His mutation.
  • Familial hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is the leading cause of sudden cardiac death in young people, including trained athletes, and is the most common
  • inherited heart defect. In this proposal, we will generate and characterize human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes (iPSC-CMs) from patients with HCM. The
  • specific aims are as follow:
  • Specific Aim 1: Generate iPSCs from patients with HCM and healthy controls.
  • Specific Aim 2: Determine the extent of disease by performing molecular and functional analyses of hiPSC-CMs.
  • Specific Aim 3: Rescue the molecular and functional phenotypes using zinc finger nuclease (ZFN) technology.
  • Over the past year, we have characterized the pathological phenotypes from iPSCs derived from a 10-patient family cohort with the MYH7 mutation.
  • We've differentiated all stablished iPSC lines from all subjects into cardiomyocyte using a modified protocol from that published by Palacek in PNAS 2011. This protocol increased the yield of cardiomyocytes significantly to consistently greater than 70% beating cardiomyocytes. We then tested the electrophysiological properties of iPSC-CMs from control and patients with HCM and found that both control and patient iPSC-CM display atrial, ventricular and nodal-like electrical waveforms by whole cell patch clamping. However, by day 30, a large subfraction (~40%) of the HCM iPSC-CM exhibit arrhythmic waveforms including delayed after-depolarizations (DADs) compared with control (~5.1%). In addition we found that treatment of HCM hiPSC-CM with positive inotropic agents (beta-adrenergic agonist - isoproterenal) for 5 days caused an earlier increase in cell size by 1.7 fold as compared to controls and significant increase in irregular calcium transients. Furthermore, we found that HCM iPSC-CMs exhibited frequent arrhythmia due to their increased intracellular calcium level by 30% at baseline. These HCM iPSC-CM also exhibited decreased calcium release by the sarcoplasmic reticulum. These findings emphasize the role of irregular calcium recycling in the pathogenesis of HCM. To confirm that the regulation of myocyte calcium is the key to HCM pathogenesis, we treated several lines from multiple HCM patients with calcium channel blocker (verapamil/diltiazem) and found that this treatment significantly ameliorated all aspects of the HCM phenotype including myocyte hypertrophy, calcium handling abnormalities, and arrhythmia. These finding supports the use of calcium channel blockers in patients with HCM and encourages further clinical studies in HCM patients using these agents.
  • Familial hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is the leading cause of sudden cardiac death in young people, including trained athletes, and is the most common
  • inherited heart defect. In this proposal, we will generate human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes (iPSC-CMs) from patients with HCM. The
  • specific aims are as follow:
  • Specific Aim 1: Generate iPSCs from patients with HCM and healthy controls.
  • Specific Aim 2: Determine the extent of disease by performing molecular and functional analyses of hiPSC-CMs.
  • Specific Aim 3: Rescue the molecular and functional phenotypes using zinc finger nuclease (ZFN) technology.
  • Over the past year, we have characterized iPSC-CMs from a 10-patient family cohort with the MYH7 mutation using standard 3D EB differentiation protocols.
  • We found normal and hypertrophic iPSC-CMs were predictive as in vitro model for arrhythmia screening using microelectroarrays and single cell patch-clamping
  • analysis. For example, we found that administration of catecholamine drug norepinephrine causes the formation of torsade de point which is a lethan arrhythmia.
  • This recapitulates the phenotype in patients with HCM receiving catecholamine drugs. We also found increase in torsade formation when the iPSC-CMs are treated
  • with hERG blockers that are also known to cause increases in arrhythmia in HCM patients. We believe the use of hiPSC-CM from healthy individuals and patients with
  • genetic heart disease can help predict the potential arrhythmic risk in existing or new drug agents that are undergoing FDA evaluation.
  • We have also generated HCM mutations in lines of normal iPSC to determine whether these mutant lines will exhibit HCM phenotype. This would satisfy the Koch's postulate
  • with regards to the role of the mutant DNA sequence on HCM manifestation. We found, using TALEN and piggyBac transposon technologies that genome edited can be generated
  • to carry R663H mutation in the MYH7 gene and that these genome edited iPSC-CM recapitulated the HCM phenotype associated with the R663H mutation such as sarcomere
  • disassembly and intracellular calcium abnormalities as well as contractile arrhythmias. We have also corrected mutant HCM human iPSC from patients with MYH7 R663H mutation
  • and show that these corrected iPSC-CM exhibit normal sarcomeric phenotype with smaller cell size and reduced calcium transient irregularities.
Funding Type: 
Basic Biology III
Grant Number: 
RB3-05103
Investigator: 
Type: 
PI
ICOC Funds Committed: 
$1 341 955
Disease Focus: 
Heart Disease
Pediatrics
Stem Cell Use: 
iPS Cell
Cell Line Generation: 
iPS Cell
oldStatus: 
Active
Public Abstract: 
Heart disease is the number one cause of death and disability in California and in the United States. Especially devastating is Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy (ARVC), an inherited form of heart disease associated with a high frequency of arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death in young people, including young athletes, who despite their appearance of health are struck down by this type of heart disease. Even though it is inherited, early detection is hindered because people carrying the genetic code have highly variable clinical symptoms, making ARVC and catastrophic cardiac events very hard to predict and avoid. Evidence suggests that this heart disease is caused by mistakes in the genetic code essential for holding the mechanical integrity of heart muscle cells together or cell junctions. What is missing is an understanding of the basic biology of these heart muscle cell junctions in humans and appropriate human model systems to study their dynamics in heart disease, which is important since other heart diseases also share some of these same heart cell defects. Our goal is to understand the basic biology of how human heart muscle cell junctions mature and what happens in disease, by studying ARVC. Human iPS cells are a unique population of stem cells from our own tissues, such as skin, that have the same genetic information as the rest of our bodies. Thus, hiPS from people who carry the ARVC heart disease mistakes can be used in our laboratory to provide a true human model of that disease. We will generate heart muscle cells from hiPS from normal and ARVC donors that carry mistakes in the genetic code for cell junction components. We have identified new pathways that may be important causes of ARVC, thus we will also use our hiPS lines, to confirm whether these new pathways are truly important in human ARVC disease progression and if our approaches reverse disease progression. Characterization of our hiPS derived heart cells can also be exploited for translational medicine to predict an individual's heart cell response to drug treatment and provides a promising platform to identify new drugs for heart diseases, such as ARVC, which are currently lacking in the field. Recent advances in stem cell biology have highlighted the unique potential of hiPS to be used in the future as a source of cells for cell-based therapies for heart disease. However, prior to clinical application, a detailed understanding of the basic biology and maturation of these hiPS into heart muscle cells is required. Our studies seek to advance our understanding of how cell-cell junctions mature in hiPS and highlight tools that influence the microenvironment of the hiPS in a dish, to accelerate this process. This knowledge can also be exploited in regenerative medicine to achieve proper electromechanical integration of cardiac stem cells when using stem cells for heart repair, to improve longterm successful clinical outcomes of cardiac stem cell therapies.
Statement of Benefit to California: 
Heart disease is the number one cause of death and disability within the United States and the rates are calculated to be even higher for citizens of the State of California when compared to the rest of the nation. These diseases place tremendous financial burdens on the people and communities of California, which highlights an urgency to understand the underlying molecular basis of heart diseases as well as find more effective therapies to alleviate these growing burdens. Our goal is to improve heart health and quality of life of Californians by generating human stem cell models from people with an especially devastating form of genetic heart disease that affects young people and results in sudden cardiac death, to improve our molecular and medical understanding of how cardiac cells go wrong in the early stages of heart disease in humans. We will also test current drugs used to treat heart disease and new candidate pathways, that we have uncovered, to determine if and how they reverse and intervene with these defects. We believe that our model systems have tremendous potential in being used to diagnose, test an individual's heart cell's response to drug treatment, as well as predict severity of symptoms in heart diseases at an early stage, to monitor drug treatment strategies for the heart. We believe our studies also have a direct impact on regenerative medicine as a therapy for Californians suffering from heart disease, since data from our studies can identify ways to improve cardiac stem cell integration into the diseased heart when used for repair, as a way to improve long-term successful clinical outcomes of cardiac stem cell therapies. We also believe that our development of multiple human heart disease stem cells lines with unique genetic characteristics could be of tremendous value to biotechnology companies and academic researchers interested in large scale drug screening strategies to identify more effective compounds to rescue defects and treat Californians with heart disease, as well as provide important economic revenue and resources to California, which is stimulated by the development of businesses interested in developing these therapies further.
Progress Report: 
  • Heart disease is the number one cause of death and disability in California and in the United States. Especially devastating is Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy (ARVC), an inherited form of heart disease associated with a high frequency of arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death in young people, including young athletes, who despite their appearance of health are struck down by this type of heart disease. Even though it is inherited, early detection is hindered because people carrying the genetic code have highly variable clinical symptoms, making ARVC and catastrophic cardiac events very hard to predict and avoid. Evidence suggests that this heart disease is caused by mistakes in the genetic code essential for holding the mechanical integrity of heart muscle cells together or cell junctions. What is missing is an understanding of the basic biology of these heart muscle cell junctions in humans and appropriate human model systems to study their dynamics in heart disease, which is important since other heart diseases also share some of these same heart cell defects. Our goal is to understand the basic biology of how human heart muscle cell junctions mature and what happens in disease, by studying ARVC. Human iPS cells are a unique population of stem cells from our own tissues, such as skin, that have the same genetic information as the rest of our bodies. Thus, hiPS from people who carry the ARVC heart disease mistakes can be used in our laboratory to provide a true human model of that disease. During the first year of our grant, we have enrolled sufficient numbers of normal and ARVC donors into our study. We have collected skin biopsy tissues from donors as means to generate hiPS cells. Our results show that hiPS cell lines can be efficiently generated from both normal and ARVC donors and we have extensively characterized their profiles, such that we know they are bona fide stem cell lines and can be used as a model system to dissect defects in cardiac cell junction biology between these various different hiPS lines. We have also developed efficient and robust methodologies to generate heart muscle cells from hiPS from normal and ARVC donors that carry mistakes in the genetic code for cell junction components and are now in the midst of characterizing their molecular, genetic, biochemical and functional profiles to identify features in these cells that are unique for ARVC. Through our previous studies, we identified new pathways that may be important causes of ARVC, thus we will also use our hiPS lines, to confirm whether these new pathways are truly important in human ARVC disease progression and if our approaches reverse disease progression. Towards this goal, we have generated novel tools to increase and decrease a component of this pathway in order to test these approaches and have preliminary data to show that these tools are efficient in altering levels of this component in heart muscle cells, which we are now applying towards understanding these pathways in hiPS derived heart muscle cells and reversing defects in heart muscle cells from ARVC hiPS derived lines. Based on our progress, we have met all of the milestones stated in our grant proposal and in some cases, surpassed some milestones. We believe progress over the next year, will allow us to define some of the key cellular defects in ARVC and advance our understanding of how cell-cell junctions mature in hiPS and highlight tools that influence the microenvironment of the hiPS in a dish, to accelerate this process.
  • Overall, we have been able to achieve the milestones proposed for Year 2 of the grant. We have generated a panel of control and ARVC hiPSC lines using integration-free based methods. We provide evidence of our method to generate robust numbers of hiPSC-derived cardiac cells that express desmosomal cell-cell junction proteins. We show ARVC lines that display disease symptom-specific features (adipogenic or arrhythmic), which phenocopy the striking and differential symptoms found in respective individual ARVC-patients as tools to study human ARVC. We also uncover desmosomal defects in hiPSC-derived cardiac muscle cells that underlie the disease features found in ARVC cells. We have also published two reviews in the field of cell-cell junctional remodeling and stem cell approaches that helps to further our understanding of this field in cardiomyocytes, that is relevant to human disease and our research using hiPS.
  • Overall, we have been able to complete the milestones proposed for our grant. We have generated a unique panel of control and ARVC hiPSC lines using integration-free methods. We provide evidence of our method to generate robust numbers of hiPSC derived cardiac cells that express key components of the cardiac muscle cell-cell junction include mechanical junctions and electrical junctions. We show that our ARVC hiPSC lines display disease symptom-specific features (adipogenic and arrhythmic), which phenocopy the striking and differential diagnosis observed in our ARVC donor hearts and provide a platform to study the varying disease features underlying ARVC. We uncover novel and classic molecular and ultrastructural defects underlying the arrhythmogenic defects in our ARVC hiPSC lines that mimic the gradation in disease severity observed in ARVC donor hearts. We exploit conventional ARVC drugs to determine their impact on arrhythmogenic behavior and reversibility of phenotypes in our cells. We have published 4 articles in the field of cell-cell junction remodeling, protein turnover and stem cell approaches that further our understanding of this field in cardiac muscle cells as well as filed a provisional patent application on the use of a novel drug discovery system for fat arrhythmogenic disorders that exploit the genetic diversity and clinical features observed in our ARVC lines.
Funding Type: 
Basic Biology III
Grant Number: 
RB3-05086
Investigator: 
ICOC Funds Committed: 
$1 181 306
Disease Focus: 
Heart Disease
Collaborative Funder: 
Germany
Stem Cell Use: 
iPS Cell
oldStatus: 
Active
Public Abstract: 
Despite therapeutic advances, cardiovascular disease remains a leading cause of mortality and morbidity in both California and Europe. New insights into disease pathology, models to expedite in vitro testing and regenerative therapies would have an enormous societal and financial impact. Although very promising, practical application of pluripotent stem cells or their derivatives face a number of challenges and technological hurdles. For instance, recent reports have demonstrated that cardiac progenitor cells (CPCs), which are capable of differentiating into all three cardiovascular cell types, are present during normal fetal development and can be isolated from pluripotent stem cells. induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived CPC therapy after a myocardial infarction would balance the need for an autologous, multipotent stem cell myocardial regeneration with the concerns of tumorigenicity using a more primitive stem cell. However, translating this discovery into a clinically useful therapy will require additional advances in our understanding of CPC biology and the factors that regulate their fate to develop optimized cell culture technology for CPC application in regenerative medicine. Cardiac cell therapy with hiPSC-derived cells, will require reproducible production of large numbers of well-characterized cells under defined conditions in vitro. This is particularly true for the rare and difficult to culture intermediates, such as CPCs. Our preliminary data demonstrated that a CPC niche exists during cardiac development and that CPC expansion is regulated by factors found within the niche microenvironment including specific soluble factors and ECM signals. However, our current understanding of the cardiac niche and how this unique microenvironment influences CPC fate is quite limited. We believe that if large scale production of hiPSC-derived CPCs is ever to be successful, new 3D cell culture technologies to replicate the endogenous cardiac niche will be required. The goals of this proposal are to address current deficiencies in our understanding of the cardiac niche and its effects on CPC expansion and differentiation as well as utilize novel bioengineering approaches to fabricate synthetic niche environments in vitro. The development of advanced fully automated in vitro culture systems that reproduce key features of natural niche microenvironments and control proliferation and/or differentiation, are critically needed both for studying the role of the niche in CPC biology but also the advancement of the field of regenerative medicine.
Statement of Benefit to California: 
Heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases are the #1 killer in California. Despite medical advances, heart disease remains a leading cause of disability and death. Recent estimates of its cost to the U.S. healthcare system amounts to almost $300 billion dollars. Although current therapies slow the progression of heart disease, there are few, if any options, to reverse or repair damage. Thus, regenerative therapies that restore normal heart function would have an enormous societal and financial impact not only on Californians, but the U.S. more generally. The research that is proposed in this application could lead to new therapies that would restore heart function after and heart attack and prevent the development of heart failure and death. We will develop the techniques to expand and transplant human cardiac progenitor cells. Combining tissue engineering with human pluripotent stem cells will facilitate the creation of new cardiovascular therapies.
Progress Report: 
  • Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the United States. As humans lack the ability to regenerate myocardial tissue lost afte a heart attcak, there has been great focus on cardiovascualr regenerative therapies with the use of human embryonic stem cells (ESC) and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC). There has been increased attention towards developing tissue engineering as a method to standardize methods to differentiate human ESCs and iPSCs into cardiovascular progenitor cells (CPC) expand these progenitor cells in a standardized manor. We have focused on developing techniques to allow expansion of these CPCs into clinically relevany numbers by determining: 1. Conditions to optimize their derivation into clinically numbers using clinical grade techniques.
  • 2. Defininy and optimizing the extracellular matrxi to be used to maintain these CPCs in an undifferentiated state to allow their expansion to clinically required numbers. We studied the endogenous environment that these CPCs exist in fetal development and focused on the extracellular matrix proteins that help support these CPCs during development. By studying the array of proteins endogenously in developing heart we now will shift our focus on re-engineering this environment in-vitro to be able to mimic this growth to use this as a mean to grow and expand these progenitors for use clinically in the future. Currently we are deriving these CPCs from human ESC and iPSC and expanding them on different combinations of proteins as determined in the staining of the endogenous fetal environment. We hope to by the end of this porject determine the ideal conditions for derivation of these CPCs from iPSCs and the environmental cues needed for culturing these cells to allow for maximal yield for potential use in clinical regenerative therapies in the future.
  • Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the United States. As humans lack the ability to regenerate myocardial tissue lost afte a heart attcak, there has been great focus on cardiovascualr regenerative therapies with the use of human embryonic stem cells (ESC) and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC). There has been increased attention towards developing tissue engineering as a method to standardize methods to differentiate human ESCs and iPSCs into cardiovascular progenitor cells (CPC) expand these progenitor cells in a standardized manor. We have focused on developing techniques to allow expansion of these CPCs into clinically relevany numbers by determining: 1. Conditions to optimize their derivation into clinically numbers using clinical grade techniques.
  • 2. Defininy and optimizing the extracellular matrxi to be used to maintain these CPCs in an undifferentiated state to allow their expansion to clinically required numbers. We studied the endogenous environment that these CPCs exist in fetal development and focused on the extracellular matrix proteins that help support these CPCs during development. By studying the array of proteins endogenously in developing heart we now will shift our focus on re-engineering this environment in-vitro to be able to mimic this growth to use this as a mean to grow and expand these progenitors for use clinically in the future. Currently we are deriving these CPCs from human ESC and iPSC and expanding them on different combinations of proteins as determined in the staining of the endogenous fetal environment. We hope to by the end of this porject determine the ideal conditions for derivation of these CPCs from iPSCs and the environmental cues needed for culturing these cells to allow for maximal yield for potential use in clinical regenerative therapies in the future.
Funding Type: 
Basic Biology III
Grant Number: 
RB3-05174
Investigator: 
ICOC Funds Committed: 
$1 708 560
Disease Focus: 
Heart Disease
oldStatus: 
Active
Public Abstract: 
Heart disease is a leading cause of adult and childhood mortality. The underlying pathology is typically loss of heart muscle cells that leads to heart failure, or improper development of specialized cardiac muscle cells called cardiomyocytes during embryonic development that leads to congenital heart malformations. Because cardiomyocytes have little or no regenerative capacity after birth, current therapeutic approaches are limited for the over 5 million Americans who suffer from heart failure. Embryonic stem cells possess clear potential for regenerating heart tissue, but efficiency of cardiac differentiation, risk of tumor formation, and issues of cellular rejection must be overcome. Our recent findings regarding direct reprogramming of a type of structural cell of the heart or skin called fibroblasts into cardiomyocyte-like cells using just three genes offer a potential alternative approach to achieving cardiac regeneration. The human heart is composed of muscle cells, blood vessel cells, and fibroblasts, with the fibroblasts comprising over 50% of all cardiac cells. The large population of cardiac fibroblasts that exists within the heart is a potential source of new heart muscle cells for regenerative therapy if it were possible to directly reprogram the resident fibroblasts into muscle cells. We simulated a heart attack in mice by blocking the coronary artery, and have been able to reprogram existing mouse cardiac fibroblasts after this simulated heart attack by delivering three genes into the heart. We found a significant reduction in scar size and an improvement in cardiac function that persists after injury. The reprogramming process starts quickly but is progressive over several weeks; however, how this actually occurs is unknown. Because this finding represents a new approach that could have clinical benefit, we propose to reveal the mechanism by which fibroblast cells become reprogrammed into heart muscle cells, which will be critical to refine the process for therapeutic use. We will do this by analyzing the changes in how the genome is interpreted and expressed at a genome-wide level at different time points during the process of fibroblast to muscle conversion, which represents the fundamental process that leads to reprogramming. The findings from this proposal will reveal approaches to refine and improve human cardiac reprogramming and will aid in translation of this technology for human cardiac regenerative purposes.
Statement of Benefit to California: 
This research will benefit the state of California and its citizens by helping develop a new approach to cardiac regeneration that would have a lower risk of tumor formation and cellular rejection. In addition, the approach could remove some of the hurdles of cell-based therapy including delivery challenges and incorporation challenges. The mechanisms revealed by this research will enable refinement of the method that could potentially then be used to treat the hundreds of thousands of Californians with heart failure.
Progress Report: 
  • Heart disease is a leading cause of adult and childhood mortality. The underlying pathology is typically loss of heart muscle cells that leads to heart failure, or improper development of specialized cardiac muscle cells called cardiomyocytes during embryonic development that leads to congenital heart malformations. Because cardiomyocytes have little or no regenerative capacity after birth, current therapeutic approaches are limited for the over 5 million Americans who suffer from heart failure. Embryonic stem cells possess clear potential for regenerating heart tissue, but efficiency of cardiac differentiation, risk of tumor formation, and issues of cellular rejection must be overcome.
  • Our recent findings regarding direct reprogramming of a type of structural cell of the heart or skin called fibroblasts into cardiac muscle-like cells using just three genes offer a potential route to achieve cardiac regeneration after cardiac injury. The large population of cardiac fibroblasts that exists within the heart is a potential source of new heart muscle cells for regenerative therapy if it were possible to directly reprogram the resident fibroblasts into muscle cells. In the last year, we simulated a heart attack in mice by blocking the coronary artery, and have been able to reprogram existing mouse cardiac fibroblasts after this simulated heart attack by delivering three genes into the heart. We found a significant reduction in scar size and an improvement in cardiac function that persists after injury. The reprogramming process starts quickly but is progressive over several weeks; however, how this actually occurs is unknown. Because this finding represents a new approach that could have clinical benefit, we are investigating the mechanism by which fibroblast cells become reprogrammed into heart muscle cells, which will be critical to refine the process for therapeutic use. During the last year, we have analyzed the changes in how the genome is interpreted and expressed at a genome-wide level at different time points during the process of fibroblast to muscle conversion, which represents the fundamental process that leads to reprogramming. We have also generated many reagents that will allow us to identify how the reprogramming factors interact with DNA to alter the interpretation. These reagents will be used in the coming year to more thoroughly investigate the epigenetic changes that induce changes in interpretation of the DNA, leading to the cardiac muscle phenotype. The findings from this proposal will reveal approaches to refine and improve human cardiac reprogramming and will aid in translation of this technology for human cardiac regenerative purposes.
  • Heart disease is a leading cause of adult and childhood mortality. The underlying pathology is typically loss of heart muscle cells that leads to heart failure, or improper development of specialized cardiac muscle cells called cardiomyocytes during embryonic development that leads to congenital heart malformations. Because cardiomyocytes have little or no regenerative capacity after birth, current therapeutic approaches are limited for the over 5 million Americans who suffer from heart failure. Embryonic stem cells possess clear potential for regenerating heart tissue, but efficiency of cardiac differentiation, risk of tumor formation, and issues of cellular rejection must be overcome.
  • Our recent findings regarding direct reprogramming of a type of structural cell of the heart or skin called fibroblasts into cardiac muscle-like cells using just three genes offer a potential route to achieve cardiac regeneration after cardiac injury. The large population of cardiac fibroblasts that exists within the heart is a potential source of new heart muscle cells for regenerative therapy if it were possible to directly reprogram the resident fibroblasts into muscle cells. We have simulated a heart attack in mice by blocking the coronary artery, and have been able to reprogram existing mouse cardiac fibroblasts after this simulated heart attack by delivering three genes into the heart. We found a significant reduction in scar size and an improvement in cardiac function that persists after injury. The reprogramming process starts quickly but is progressive over several weeks; however, how this actually occurs is unknown. Because this finding represents a new approach that could have clinical benefit, we are investigating the mechanism by which fibroblast cells become reprogrammed into heart muscle cells, which will be critical to refine the process for therapeutic use. During the last year, we have analyzed the changes in how the genome is interpreted and expressed at a genome-wide level at different time points during the process of fibroblast to muscle conversion, which represents the fundamental process that leads to reprogramming. We have mapped the dynamic and sequential changes that are occurring on the DNA during reprogramming of cells. In the coming year, we will be integrating data from studies of epigenetic changes, DNA-binding of reprogramming factors, and the resulting alterations in activation or repression of genes that are responsible for changing a fibroblast into a cardiac muscle cell. The findings from this proposal will reveal approaches to refine and improve human cardiac reprogramming and will aid in translation of this technology for human cardiac regenerative purposes.
  • Heart disease is a leading cause of adult and childhood mortality. The underlying pathology is typically loss of heart muscle cells that leads to heart failure, or improper development of specialized cardiac muscle cells called cardiomyocytes during embryonic development that leads to congenital heart malformations. Because cardiomyocytes have little or no regenerative capacity after birth, current therapeutic approaches are limited for the over 5 million Americans who suffer from heart failure. Embryonic stem cells possess clear potential for regenerating heart tissue, but efficiency of cardiac differentiation, risk of tumor formation, and issues of cellular rejection must be overcome.
  • Our recent findings regarding direct reprogramming of a type of structural cell of the heart or skin called fibroblasts into cardiac muscle-like cells using just three genes offer a potential route to achieve cardiac regeneration after cardiac injury. The large population of cardiac fibroblasts that exists within the heart is a potential source of new heart muscle cells for regenerative therapy if it were possible to directly reprogram the resident fibroblasts into muscle cells. We have simulated a heart attack in mice by blocking the coronary artery, and have been able to reprogram existing mouse cardiac fibroblasts after this simulated heart attack by delivering three genes into the heart. We found a significant reduction in scar size and an improvement in cardiac function that persists after injury. The reprogramming process starts quickly but is progressive over several weeks; however, how this actually occurs is unknown. Because this finding represents a new approach that could have clinical benefit, we are investigating the mechanism by which fibroblast cells become reprogrammed into heart muscle cells, which will be critical to refine the process for therapeutic use. During this project, we have analyzed the changes in how the genome is interpreted and expressed at a genome-wide level at different time points during the process of fibroblast to muscle conversion, which represents the fundamental process that leads to reprogramming. We have mapped the dynamic and sequential changes that are occurring on the DNA during reprogramming of cells. In the last year, we have determined the epigenetic changes occurring and correlated those with DNA-binding of reprogramming factors, and the resulting alterations in activation or repression of genes that are responsible for changing a fibroblast into a cardiac muscle cell. The findings from this proposal are revealing approaches to refine and improve human cardiac reprogramming and will aid in translation of this technology for human cardiac regenerative purposes.

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