If successful, intravenous stem cell implantation could become an office procedure
By Richard Westlund
Illustration by Giulio Bonasera
multidisciplinary team at the Miller School is playing a key role in a collaborative clinical trial, funded by a $7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense, that could transform the use of stem cells to regenerate damaged heart tissues.
The team is co-led by Joshua M. Hare, M.D., the Louis Lemberg Professor of Medicine, founding director of the Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute and a heart failure/cardiac transplant cardiologist, and Aisha Khan, executive director of ISCI’s production laboratory.
“Cell therapy is emerging as a promising approach to helping patients with heart failure, a lethal, disabling and costly condition,” said Dr. Hare, who also serves as director of the Donald Soffer Endowed Program in Regenerative Medicine and senior associate dean for experimental and cellular therapeutics. “However, widespread adoption has been hindered by the invasive nature of delivering stem cells directly to the heart.”
Dr. Hare and Khan are the Miller School site principal investigators for the multicenter clinical trial to study a new approach to administering mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) through an intravenous infusion, rather than injecting them directly into the heart.
Dr. Hare says the trial is particularly important as heart failure cases currently number some 6 million annually in the United States, and continue to rise.
“We believe infusing MSCs intravenously will reduce inflammation of the heart and circulatory system,” he said. “If this approach is successful, cardiologists would be able to perform the infusions in an office setting, rather than an interventional cardiology lab. That would make stem cell therapy accessible to far more patients in the U.S. and around the world.”