MENLO PARK, Calif., Aug. 27, 2007 Geron Corporation (Nasdaq: GERN) today reported its scientists and collaborators have demonstrated that human embryonic stem cell (hESC)-derived cardiomyocytes improve heart function when transplanted after myocardial infarction.
Published online Aug. 26 in Nature Biotechnology, the landmark study is the first to document the potential clinical utility of regenerating damaged heart muscle by injecting hESC-derived cardiomyocytes directly into the site of the infarct. In addition, the research confirms the effectiveness of a scalable production system that enables Geron to manufacture the cardiomyocytes for use in ongoing large animal studies and, ultimately, testing in humans.
The study describes the feeder- and serum-free, scalable production of hESC-derived cardiomyocytes, their survival in the infarct zone of rats when transplanted four days after infarction, and echocardiographic and MRI evidence of significant improvement in cardiac structure and contractile function. Gerons scientists conducted the study in collaboration with Charles Murry, M.D., Ph.D., and Michael Laflamme, M.D., Ph.D., at the University of Washington.
This is one of the most important publications on hESCs for Geron to date, said Thomas B. Okarma, Ph.D., M.D., Gerons president and chief executive officer. Our cardiomyocytes are the first human cardiac cells shown to survive after injection into an infarcted ventricle and to produce significant improvement in heart function. hESCs are the only cell type shown definitively to form cardiomyocytes.
Approximately 5.2 million people in the United States suffer from heart failure, and approximately 865,000 people experience myocardial infarction each year. About 36% of this population progresses to heart failure within five years of a first infarction. More than one-third of all heart failure patients die within two years of diagnosis.
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