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Exosome treatment improves recovery from heart attacks in a preclinical study

Science has long known that recovery from experimental heart attacks is improved by injection of a mixture of heart muscle cells, endothelial cells and smooth muscle cells, yet results have been limited by poor engraftment and retention, and researchers worry about potential tumorigenesis and heart arrhythmia.

Now research in pigs shows that using the exosomes naturally produced from that mixture of heart muscle cells, endothelial cells and smooth muscle cells—which were all derived from human induced pluripotent stem cells—yields regenerative benefits equivalent to the injected human induced pluripotent stem cell-cardiac cells, or hiPSC-CCs.

Exosomes are membrane-bound extracellular vesicles that contain biologically active proteins, RNAs and microRNAs. Exosomes are well known to participate in cell-to-cell communication, and they are actively studied as potential clinical therapies.

"The hiPSC-CC exosomes are acellular and, consequently, may enable physicians to exploit the cardioprotective and reparative properties of hiPSC-derived cells while avoiding the complexities associated with tumorigenic risks, cell storage, transportation and immune rejection," said Ling Gao, Ph.D., and Jianyi "Jay" Zhang, M.D., Ph.D., University of Alabama at Birmingham corresponding authors of the study, published in Science Translational Medicine. "Thus, exosomes secreted by hiPSC-derived cardiac cells improved myocardial recovery without increasing the frequency of arrhythmogenic complications and may provide an acellular therapeutic option for myocardial injury."

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