Seattle Children's Heart Center

Dr. Stephen Seslar and Dr. Charles Murry, Primary Investigators
Research Project: Stem Cell Therapy to Treat Heart Rhythm Problems in Patients with Congenital Heart Disease: Initial Evaluation in a Canine Model
Amount funded: $36,447

A stem cell is an immature cell that has the potential to turn into a specialized cell such as a skin cell, a nerve cell, or a heart muscle cell. In medicine, the potential for stem cells to repair or replace defective cells in a wide range of human diseases is the subject of intense investigation. The use of stem cells for regenerating heart tissue holds signi´Čücant promise for treating various forms of heart disease. Most investigations to date have focused on the role of stem cell therapy in heart muscle failure or to regenerate injured heart muscle. Recent work in our laboratory has centered on the roll of stem cells to replace heart muscle damaged during a heart attack (or myocardial infarction), in an animal model. In the course of this work, we found that stem cells injected into areas of scar not only survived, but actually replaced scar tissue with functioning heart muscle. Importantly, as stem cells replaced the scar tissue they electrically integrated into the native heart. Thus the stem cells were induced to beat by the same electrical stimulus that triggers the host heart cells to beat. The potential for stem cells to treat heart rhythm disorders has not yet received wide spread attention and, in this arena, research has focused mostly on replacing injured specialized conduction tissue in the heart. Based on our understanding of how scar leads to arrhythmias, particularly in children with congenital heart disease, we recognized the exciting potential for stem cell therapy to address this important clinical problem.