Cardiovascular disease is the most costly component of modern healthcare, accounting for 8.3% of total U.S. healthcare spending. Myocardial infarction resulting in congestive heart failure continues to be the number one cause of death in the U.S., killing some 300,000 Americans each year. Congestive heart failure is also the leading cause of hospital admissions. Nearly 5 million Americans suffer from this condition, with 550,000 new cases reported annually.
Repairing damaged heart tissue would be the ideal treatment for heart attack and congestive heart failure. Current approaches use pharmaceuticals to slow the progression of heart failure, but this does not cure the underlying disease, which currently can be addressed only by heart transplant. An attractive alternative vision for these patients would be the use of repair processes that, rather than prop up and maintain damaged organ function, would enable the replacement and repair of the damaged tissue on a cellular level. Scientists have recently focused on the use of stem cells for regeneration and repair of the myocardium. Discoveries linking stem cell-based therapies to improvements in myocardial performance hold great promise, but to date, improvements in cardiac function have been modest at best, and the stem cells generally do not survive and function long term. Dr. Sussman has discovered a solution to this problem, and has demonstrated that genetically-engineered stem cells that express the cardioprotective kinase Pim-1 can implant in damaged cardiac tissue, where they grow and form new heart tissue, restoring cardiac function. This technology has been exclusively licensed to CardioCreate.
Animal studies have demonstrated that Pim-1 modified cardiac progenitor cells are able to generate new heart tissue that persists for at least 6 months and causes major improvements in the heart’s ability to work. CardioCreate is moving ahead to demonstrate the technology in large mammals, and is developing safety data, materials and protocols for testing this potentially life-saving treatment in humans. This technique will use stem cells taken from the patient’s own heart. The cells, called adult human cardiac progenitor cells (hCPCs), are modified to produce a protein known to protect the heart and also found to protect hCPCs after they are returned to the patient’s heart.