November 18th, 2013

Super-Cells & Chimeras: Mission Impossible 5 or Transformative Approaches to New Heart?

Several Cardiology Fellows who are attending AHA.13 in Dallas this week are blogging for CardioExchange. The Fellows include Vimal RamjeeSiqin YeSeth MartinReva Balakrishnan, and  Saurav Chatterjee. You can find the previous post here. For more of our AHA.13 coverage of late-breaking clinical trials, interviews with the authors of the most important research, and blogs from our fellows on the most interesting presentations at the meeting, check out our AHA.13 Headquarters.

Wow – I was in the late afternoon, late-breaking basic science talks not too long ago, and the only word that comes to mind is: Wow!

Just when you think you’ve heard it all, a whole new set of transformative approaches to regenerate heart is brought to the table. This afternoon, Mark Sussman and Sean Wu, in particular, wow-ed me with their new ideas in addressing regenerative approaches.

Dr. Sussman stunned the audience with the Powerpoint-equivalent of a chalk-talk, in which he underscored the slow rate of progress in wielding the power of stem cells and the need for transformative out-of-the-box approaches. His group at San Diego State University has worked hard to create two novel tools that may be a first step in that direction: CardioChimeras and CardioClusters.

CardioChimeras are essentially super-cells that are comprised of multiple cell lines that have been induced to fuse into a single cell with synergistic reparative potential. Thus far, his group has fused c-kit positive cardiac progenitor cells with bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells. CardioClusters play off a similar concept of recapitulating the native heterogeneous niche, but do not use fusion technology. Instead, they are hundreds of cells (like those above) engineered into a bundle surrounded by endothelial cells. They are structurally undamaged when injected through needles, but results regarding efficacy in animal models are still pending. Perhaps this is something we can look for at the next meeting.

Dr. Wu ended the session with an eye-opening approach of using chimera technology to grow human hearts in animals and then have them available for transplantation. Dr. Sussman brought up the important point of immune reaction as a result of the chimera organ in the host animal, and Dr. Wu assured that based on his findings thus far that it is not a concern.

Both approaches are exciting and transformative. I do wonder whether having so many disparate approaches being considered (at least half a dozen if you sort them conservatively) is a good or bad thing. Perhaps it would be better to have all of our top-tier scientists work together to resolve the most promising one or two approaches.

What do you think of this potentially transformative research and the number of disparate approaches?

One Response to “Super-Cells & Chimeras: Mission Impossible 5 or Transformative Approaches to New Heart?”

  1. Siqin Ye, MD says:

    Although I swore off working with mice and pipettes after college, it’s always exciting to learn about potentially transformative ideas!