The research will be carried out in two phases. During the first phase, investigators will conduct extensive studies of the characteristics and potential of the targeted stem cells, including research on the influence of aging on the potency of MSCs (hibernating myocardium typically does not occur in young persons).
"If aging indeed impairs the function of these adult stem cells," said Lee, "genetic and tissue engineering might be used to boost the competency of aged MSCs."
He noted also that mesenchymal stem cells do not appear to generate a strong immune response. "If this characteristic is proven rigorously," he said, "and if we determine how these stem cells differentiate into cells for specific 'jobs,' it might provide the basis for 'off-the-shelf' use of these stem cells in future therapeutic applications."
The second phase of the project will involve injecting the stem cells into swine with hibernating myocardium. The researchers will track the cells' progress, evaluate their feasibility, and determine if cells engineering for enhanced survival, blood vessel regeneration and "homing potential" (the tendency to migrate properly to the heart rather than elsewhere) can better improve blood flow and tissue function in hibernating myocardium.