EXTRA! EXTRA! Read all about it! New research from Jeffery Molkentin's Lab recently utilized B-CHP to evaluate the mechanical and functional changes in cardiac tissue following an ischemia/reperfusion injury and evaluated the difference in the response following stem cell therapy. In Panel A, the clearly show that there is an increase in ECM remodeling at the infarct border zone compared to an area far away from the infarct. In Panel B, they show that the increase in ECM remodeling corroborates with the increased presence of CCR2+ and CX3CR1+ macrophages, suggesting that sites of active inflammation within the areas of cell or zymosan (a non-cellular and potent activator of the innate immune response) injection were undergoing greater ECM remodeling.
Abstract: Clinical trials using adult stem cells to regenerate damaged heart tissue continue to this day despite ongoing questions of efficacy and a lack of mechanistic understanding of the underlying biologic effect. The rationale for these cell therapy trials is derived from animal studies that show a modest but reproducible improvement in cardiac function in models of cardiac ischemic injury. Here we examined the mechanistic basis for cell therapy in mice after ischemia/reperfusion (I/R) injury, and while heart function was enhanced, it was not associated with new cardiomyocyte production. Cell therapy improved heart function through an acute sterile immune response characterized by the temporal and regional induction of CCR2+ and CX3CR1+ macrophages. Here we observed that intra-cardiac injection of 2 distinct types of progenitor cells, freeze/thaw-killed cells or a chemical inducer of the innate immune response similarly induced regional CCR2+ and CX3CR1+ macrophage accumulation and provided functional rejuvenation to the I/R-injured heart. Mechanistically, this selective macrophage response altered cardiac fibroblast activity and reduced border zone extracellular matrix (ECM) content and enhanced the mechanical properties of the injured area. The functional benefit of cardiac cell therapy is thus due to an acute inflammatory-based wound healing response that rejuvenates the mechanical properties of the infarcted area of the heart. Such results suggest a re-evaluation of strategies underlying cardiac cell therapy in current and planned human clinical trials.