The heart does not mend itself after infarction. However, stem cells may revolutionize heart disease treatment. A vast and growing body of evidence indicates that cell-based strategies have promising therapeutic potential. Recent clinical and pre-clinical studies demonstrate varying degrees of improvement in cardiac function using different adult stem cell types such as bone marrow (BM)-derived progenitor cells and skeletal myoblasts. However, the efficacy of cell therapy after myocardial infarction (MI) is inconclusive and the cellular source with the highest potential for regeneration is unclear. Clinically, BM and skeletal muscle are the most commonly used sources of autologous stem cells. One major pitfall of using autologous stem cells is that the number of functional cells is generally depleted in the elderly and chronically ill. Therefore, there is an urgent need for a new source of adult stem cells. Human umbilical cord blood (CB) is a candidate and appears to have several key advantages. CB is a viable and practical source of progenitor cells. The cells are naïve and whats more, CB contains a higher number of immature stem/progenitor cells than BM. We review recent clinical experience with adult stem cells and explore the potential of CB as a source of cells for cardiac repair following MI. We conclude that there is a conspicuous absence of clinical studies utilizing CB-derived cells and there is a pressing need for large randomized double-blinded clinical trials to assess the overall efficacy of cell-based therapy.
Keywords: Umbilical cord blood, adult stem cell, myocardial infarction, congestive heart failure, human bone marrow, skeletal muscle, angiogenesis
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