The Texas Heart Institute has received a grant of $1.5 million from NIH for studies on using adult stem cells in combination with heart-assist devices in cases of heart failure. The idea is to use assist devices to rest the heart, while using adult stem cells to stimulate repair of damaged tissue.

The group has been one of the leaders in the U.S. in the field of treating heart damage with adult stem cells, including participating in a recently-published trial by ten institutions. Adult stem cells are both successful and ethical in patient treatments, and cells from the patient's own body avoid the risk of transplant rejection.

The Texas group had already found that adult stem cells derived from a patients own bone marrow can be transplanted into a damaged heart, where they stimulate the development of new heart muscle and blood vessels, repairing heart damage. A new publication by the team has helped illuminate how the adult stem cells work in the heart. In a study published in Circulation Research, they show that a specific type of human adult stem cells, known as CD34+, when injected into the damaged hearts of mice, improves heart functions by stimulating formation of new blood vessels and/or by providing beneficial chemical signals within the heart. They also found that the adult stem cells can survive in the hearts of the mice for up to a year. The study is an important step in understanding how adult stem cells repair damaged hearts, as well as other tissues.