Singapore Med J. 2009 Oct;50(10):935-42.

Wei HM, Wong P, Hsu LF, Shim W.

Research and Development Unit, National Heart Centre, 9 Hospital Drive, Blk C, #03-2, Singapore.


Stem cell-based cell therapy has emerged as a potentially therapeutic option for patients with acute myocardial infarction (AMI) and heart failure. With the completion of a number of trials using bone marrow (BM)-derived adult stem cells, critical examination of the overall clinical benefits, limitations and potential side effects of this revolutionary treatment will pave the way for future clinical research. At present, clinical trials have been conducted almost exclusively using BM stem cells. The primary endpoints of these trials are mainly safety and feasibility, with secondary endpoints in the efficacy of post-myocardial infarction (MI) cardiac repair. Intervention with BM-derived cells was mainly carried out by endogenously-mobilised BM cells with granulocyte-colony stimulating factor, and more frequently, by intracoronary infusion or direct intramyocardial injection of autologous BM cells. While these studies have been proven safe and feasible without notable side effects, mixed outcomes in terms of clinical benefits have been reported. The major clinical benefits observed are improved cardiac contractile function and suppressed left ventricular negative remodelling, including reduced infarct size and improved cardiac perfusion of infarct zone. Moderate and transient clinical benefits have been mostly observed in studies with intracoronary infusion or direct intramyocardial injection of BM cells. These effects are widely considered to be indirect effects of implanted cells in association with paracrine factors, cell fusion, passive ventricular remodelling, or the responses of endogenous cardiac stem cells. In contrast, evidence of cardiac regeneration characterised by differentiation of implanted stem cells into cardiomyocytes and other cardiac cell lineages, is weak or lacking. To elucidate a clear risk-benefit of this exciting therapy, future studies on the mechanisms of cardiac cell therapy will need to focus on confirming the ideal cell types in relation to dosage and timing for post-MI cardiac repair, developing more effective cell delivery techniques, and devising innovative cell tracking modalities that could unveil the fates of implanted cells such as survival, engraftment and functionality.

PMID: 19907881 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]