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The role of stem cells for treatment of cardiovascular disease


Matthew Lovell, Department of Clinical Pharmacology, William Harvey Research Institute, Bart's and the London, Charterhouse Square, London EC1M 6BQ, UK. Tel.: 0207 2693434; Fax: 0207 2693491; E-mail:


 Abstract. Cardiovascular disease is a global cause of mortality and morbidity. Current treatments fail to address the underlying scarring and cell loss, which are the causes of ischaemic heart failure. Cellular transplantation can overcome these problems and new impetus has been injected into this field following the isolation of human embryonic and adult stem cells. These cells have shown remarkable ability to produce cardiomyocytes and vascular cells in vitro and in vivo. Initial transplantation studies have demonstrated functional benefits and it is hoped further randomised clinical trials will concur with initial findings. Much basic science remains to be unearthed, such as the signals for homing, differentiation and engraftment of transplanted cells. Further matters of concern are the role of cell fusion and the mechanisms by which transplanted cells improve cardiac function. In spite of initial progress made in stem cell therapy there is still much to be done and we are some way off from achieving the goal of effective cellular regeneration.