Over the last decade, much was learned about the biology of several types of stem and progenitor cells. It has become apparent that various cell sources may have the capacity to promote cardiomyogenesis and new blood vessel formation through different mechanisms, forming the rationale for cell-based therapy in patients with chronic ischemic heart disease. After initial clinical studies have provided evidence for safety of cell administration, larger randomized trials demonstrated variable effects on myocardial perfusion and contractile performance. Although cell-based therapy is a promising strategy for the treatment of myocardial disease, many questions remain to be answered with respect to the optimal cell type, delivery route and mechanism of action in order to improve the outcome of cardiac cell therapy. This paper aims to provide an overview of the methods available to apply cell-based therapy in chronic ischemic myocardial disease. The different cell types that have been tested in (pre)clinical trials and their proposed mechanism of action will be discussed, along with the possible routes of cell delivery. Furthermore, the experience from experimental and clinical studies will be summarized, and innovative strategies to enhance the efficacy of cell therapy, for example by improving cell retention and survival, will be reviewed.
Keywords: Cell therapy, stem cells, chronic myocardial disease, injection methods, cell retention, cell survival, ischemia, cardiomyocytes, angiogenesis, skeletal myoblasts
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