Nav: Home

UC Davis researchers find a way to help stem cells work for the heart

September 09, 2020

Blocking an enzyme linked with inflammation makes it possible for stem cells to repair damaged heart tissue, new research from UC Davis Health scientists shows.

The enzyme -- soluble epoxide hydrolase, or sEH -- is a known factor in lung and joint disease. Now, it is a focus of heart-disease researchers as well.

The authors expect their work will lead to a new and powerful class of compounds that overcome the cell death and muscle thickening associated with heart failure -- a common outcome of a heart attack or long-term cardiovascular disease.

The study, conducted in mice, is published in Stem Cells Translational Medicine. The work was led by cardiologist Nipavan Chiamvimonvat.

"The science of using stem cell treatments for heart disease has been full of promise but little progress," Chiamvimonvat said. "The inflammation that accompanies heart disease is simply not conducive to stem cell survival."

Prior studies show that stem cells transplanted to the heart experience significant attrition in a very short period of time.

"We think we've found a way to quiet that inflammatory environment, giving stem cells a chance to survive and do the healing work we know they can do," said lead author and cardiovascular medicine researcher Padmini Sirish.

A significant and growing cardiovascular disease

Heart failure occurs when the heart no longer pumps blood efficiently, reducing oxygen throughout the body. Survival is around 45-60% five years after diagnosis. It affects approximately 5.7 million people in the U.S., with annual costs of nearly $30 billion. By 2030, it could affect as many as 9 million people at a cost of nearly $80 billion.

Chiamvimonvat often treats patients with heart failure and has been frustrated by the lack of effective medications for the disease, especially when it progresses to later stages. The best current therapies for end-stage heart failure are surgical -- heart transplants or mechanical heart pumps.

She expects her outcome will lead to a two-part treatment for end-stage heart failure that combines an sEH-blocking compound with stem cell transplantation.

Testing a two-step stem cell treatment

Chiamvimonvat and her team tested that theory in mice using cardiac muscle cells known as cardiomyocytes, which were derived from human-induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs). A hiPSC is a cell taken from any human tissue (usually skin or blood) and genetically modified to behave like an embryonic stem cell. They have the ability to form all cell types.

The specific sEH inhibitor used in the study -- TPPU -- was selected based on the work of co-author and cancer researcher Bruce Hammock, whose lab has provided detailed studies of nearly a dozen of the enzyme inhibitors.

The researchers studied six groups of mice with induced heart attacks. A group treated with a combination of the inhibitor and hiPSCs had the best outcomes in terms of increased engraftment and survival of transplanted stem cells. That group also had less heart muscle thickening and improved cardiac function.

"Taken together, our data suggests that conditioning hiPSC cardiomyocytes with sEH inhibitors may help the cells to better survive the harsh conditions in the muscle damaged by a heart attack," Hammock said.

The path to clinical trials begins

Chiamvimonvat and her team will next test the process in a larger research animal model to provide more insights into the beneficial role of TPPU. She also wants to test the process with additional heart diseases, including atrial fibrillation. Her ultimate goal, in collaboration with Hammock, is to launch human clinical trials to test the safety of the treatment.

"It is my dream as a clinician and scientist to take the problems I see in the clinic to the lab for solutions that benefit our patients," Chiamvimonvat said. "It is only possible because of the incredible strength of our team and the extraordinarily collaborative nature of research at UC Davis."
Additional co-authors were Phung Thai, Jun Yang, Xiao-Dong Zhang, Lu Ren, Ning Li, Valeriy Timofeyev, Kin Sing Lee, Carol Nader, Douglas Rowland, Sergey Yechikov, Svetlana Ganaga, J. Nilas Young and Deborah Lieu, all from UC Davis.

Their work was funded by the American Heart Association, Harold S. Geneen Charitable Trust. Rosenfeld Heart Foundation, U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs and the National Institutes of Health (grants T32HL86350, F32HL149288, K99R00ES024806, R35ES030443, P42ES04699, IR35 ES0443-1, P01AG051443, R01DC015135, R56HL138392, R01HL085727, R01HL085844, R01HL137228 and S10RR033106).

The study, titled "Suppression of Inflammation and Fibrosis using Soluble Epoxide Hydrolase Inhibitors Enhances Cardiac Stem Cell-Based Therapy," is available online.

More information about UC Davis Health, including its cardiovascular medicine and stem cell research programs, is at

University of California - Davis Health

Related Stem Cells Articles:

SUTD researchers create heart cells from stem cells using 3D printing
SUTD researchers 3D printed a micro-scaled physical device to demonstrate a new level of control in the directed differentiation of stem cells, enhancing the production of cardiomyocytes.
More selective elimination of leukemia stem cells and blood stem cells
Hematopoietic stem cells from a healthy donor can help patients suffering from acute leukemia.
Computer simulations visualize how DNA is recognized to convert cells into stem cells
Researchers of the Hubrecht Institute (KNAW - The Netherlands) and the Max Planck Institute in Münster (Germany) have revealed how an essential protein helps to activate genomic DNA during the conversion of regular adult human cells into stem cells.
First events in stem cells becoming specialized cells needed for organ development
Cell biologists at the University of Toronto shed light on the very first step stem cells go through to turn into the specialized cells that make up organs.
Surprising research result: All immature cells can develop into stem cells
New sensational study conducted at the University of Copenhagen disproves traditional knowledge of stem cell development.
The development of brain stem cells into new nerve cells and why this can lead to cancer
Stem cells are true Jacks-of-all-trades of our bodies, as they can turn into the many different cell types of all organs.
Healthy blood stem cells have as many DNA mutations as leukemic cells
Researchers from the Princess Máxima Center for Pediatric Oncology have shown that the number of mutations in healthy and leukemic blood stem cells does not differ.
New method grows brain cells from stem cells quickly and efficiently
Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have developed a faster method to generate functional brain cells, called astrocytes, from embryonic stem cells.
NUS researchers confine mature cells to turn them into stem cells
Recent research led by Professor G.V. Shivashankar of the Mechanobiology Institute at the National University of Singapore and the FIRC Institute of Molecular Oncology in Italy, has revealed that mature cells can be reprogrammed into re-deployable stem cells without direct genetic modification -- by confining them to a defined geometric space for an extended period of time.
Researchers develop a new method for turning skin cells into pluripotent stem cells
Researchers at the University of Helsinki, Finland, and Karolinska Institutet, Sweden, have for the first time succeeded in converting human skin cells into pluripotent stem cells by activating the cell's own genes.
More Stem Cells News and Stem Cells Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: The Power Of Spaces
How do spaces shape the human experience? In what ways do our rooms, homes, and buildings give us meaning and purpose? This hour, TED speakers explore the power of the spaces we make and inhabit. Guests include architect Michael Murphy, musician David Byrne, artist Es Devlin, and architect Siamak Hariri.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

What If?
There's plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he'd do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa's Transition Integrity Project doesn't give us any predictions, and it isn't a referendum on Trump. Instead, it's a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at     You can read The Transition Integrity Project's report here.