The reprogramming of bone marrow cells to stimulate the hearts of subjects with heart failure could soon benefit many patients. At the start of the year, like the European authorities, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA)* gave its consent for a phase III clinical trial to be carried out – the last stage before applying the technique on a large scale. This trial will include a cohort of 500 patients: one half in Europe and the other half in the United States. The Belgian start-up company, Cardio3 BioSciences and the Rochester Mayo Clinic (Minnesota) devised this technique.
What is involved: in addition to haematopoietic stem cells, the bone marrow contains 2 to 3% of mesenchymatous cells which, during “embryo development form the skeleton and muscles“. Placed in culture with growth factors for 4 to 5 weeks, the mesenchymatous cells “retransform themselves into bone, muscle and cardiac cells“. They are then injected into the heart via a catheter inserted in the femoral artery. They can mix with healthy cardiac cells and help the heart to regenerate itself and restore part of its contractile strength.
William Wijns, specialist in interventional cardiology and cardiac tissue viability explains: “Injecting non-differentiated stem cells in the hope that they will transform themselves into myocardial cells is an illusion. This is why we have chosen to use specific stem cells which form the heart in the embryo“.
If all goes according to plan, the treatment should be available in Europe by the end of 2016 and one year later in the United States. According to the President of Cardio3 Bio Sciences, the cost of the treatment has not yet been established. However, he “estimates that it will be less than that of current treatment for advanced heart failure“.
* American Food & Drug Administration