Ischemic heart disease, caused by vessel blockage, is a leading cause of death in many western countries. Studies have shown the potential of stem cells in regenerating heart tissue damaged during an attack. But even as the list of candidate cells for cardiac regeneration has expanded, none has emerged as the obvious choice, possibly because several cell types are needed to regenerate both the heart’s muscles and its vascular components.
Aside from the choice of the right cell source for tissue regeneration, the best way to deliver the stem cells is up for debate, too, as intravenous delivery and injections can be inefficient and possibly harmful. While embryonic stem cells have shown great promise for heart repairs due to their ability to differentiate into virtually any cell type, less than 10 percent of injected cells typically survive the engraftment and of that number generally only 2 percent actually colonize the heart.