mHCN4 Genetically Modified Canine Mesenchymal Stem Cells Provide Biological Pacemaking Function in Complete Dogs with Atrioventricular Block


  • This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant number 30871060) and the Chongqing Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant number 2008BA5005).

  • Conflict of Interest: No conflict of interest to report.



The study was undertaken to assess the properties of mouse HCN4 (mHCN4)-modified canine mesenchymal stem cells (cMSCs) in dogs with experimentally induced complete atrioventricular (AV) block and electronic pacing.


Complete AV block was induced in adult dogs who had undergone implantation of backup electronic pacemakers. cMSCs were transfected with mHCN4 genes. Evidence of successful IHCN4 expression was provided by patch-clamp detection. mHCN4-cMSCs or normal cMSCs were injected subepicardially into the left ventricular anterior wall of the dogs. Cardiac parameters were monitored for 6 weeks. Heart rate variability (HRV) was evaluated using quantitative Poincaré plots of R-RN against R-RN+1 intervals. cMSCs survival and expression of HCN4 in vivo were examined by histological studies and Western blot.


In 2 weeks, the maximum heart rate and the number of impulses generated from the injection sites were much higher in dogs injected with HCN4-modified MSCs than in control dogs.  Basal heart rate increased in the HCN4 group and became fully stabilized by Week 4, evidenced by markedly reduced numbers of electronic pacemaker beats. At Week 2, HRV during exercise was significantly higher in HCN4 dogs than in controls as shown by descriptors of both instantaneous (SD1) and longer term (SD2) beat-to-beat deviations (P < 0.05). Hematoxylin-eosin staining and Western blot proved that cMSCs survive and express HCN4 protein in situ in heart of HCN4 dog.


Transplantation of mHCN4-modified cMSCs provided a stable biological pacemaking function that allowed an appropriate chronotropic response to physical exercise for up to 6 weeks.