April 08, 2010
Magnets Guide Stem Cells To Damaged Heart

Scientists put particles of iron in stem cells and then used magnets to increase the concentration of stem cells where they were most needed.

LOS ANGELES –Researchers at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute have found in animals that infusing cardiac-derived stem cells with micro-size particles of iron and then using a magnet to guide those stem cells to the area of the heart damaged in a heart attack boosts the heart's retention of those cells and could increase the therapeutic benefit of stem cell therapy for heart disease.

The study is published today online by Circulation Research, a scientific journal of the American Heart Association. The study also will appear in the journal's May 28th printed edition.

"Stem cell therapies show great promise as a treatment for heart injuries, but 24 hours after infusion, we found that less than 10 percent of the stem cells remain in the injured area," said Eduardo Marbán, M.D., director of the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute. "Once injected into a patient's artery, many stem cells are lost due to the combination of tissue blood flow, which can wash out stem cells, and cardiac contraction, which can squeeze out stem cells. We needed to find a way to guide more of the cells directly to the area of the heart that we want to heal."

It isn't enough to be able to grow up the desired type of stem cells in sufficient quantity. The stem cells still need to go to wherever they are most needed. Once the cells are where tissue needs replacement the stem cells still must integrate themselves into existing tissue properly in 3 dimensions and then divide to produce the needed local cell types. Not an easy proposition.

One can imagine other strategies for guiding stem cells to desired destinations. For example, for areas without the heavy blood flow of the heart just injection of the cells into the desired area might be enough in some cases. Or possibly implant something that secretes a hormone or other compound that guides stem cells to that locatio.

The rate of progress in stem cell research objectively matters more to most of us in the long run than debates about health insurance coverage. We are all going to get some disease that would be fatal if it befalls us now. But each of those disease will become curable at some point in the future. If we are lucky we will not get each of these diseases until after they become curable. Many of those diseases will become curable with stem cells.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 April 08 11:40 PM  Biotech Stem Cells

StemCellBlogger said at April 14, 2010 1:49 PM:

NASA spent 3 billion on developing a zero grav pen for use in in space…the Russians used a pencil.
Likewise, as the biotech industry spends hundreds of millions on smart/nanotechnology devices to send medicines and cells to specific sites or organs…Cedars-Sinai uses a magnet and iron dust.

Sometimes, old school is definitely the way to go...

Nick G said at April 14, 2010 6:54 PM:

NASA spent 3 billion on developing a zero grav pen for use in in space…the Russians used a pencil.

I believe that's an urban myth.

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