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Heart failure carries a poor prognosis with few treatment options. While myocardial stem cell therapeutic trials have traditionally relied on intracoronary infusion or intramyocardial injection routes, these cell delivery methods are invasive and can introduce harmful scar tissue, arrhythmia, calcification, or microinfarction in the heart. Given that patients with heart failure are at an increased surgical risk, the development of a noninvasive stem cell therapeutic approach is logistically appealing. Taking advantage of the trophic effects of bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) and using a hamster heart failure model, the present study demonstrates a novel noninvasive therapeutic regimen via the direct delivery of MSCs into the skeletal muscle bed. Intramuscularly injected MSCs and MSC-conditioned medium each significantly improved ventricular function 1 mo after MSC administration. MSCs at 4 million cells/animal increased fractional shortening by 40%, enhanced capillary and myocyte nuclear density by 30% and 80%, attenuated apoptosis by 60%, and reduced fibrosis by 50%. Myocyte regeneration was evidenced by an approximately twofold increase in the expression of cell cycle markers (Ki67 and phosphohistone H3) and an 13% reduction in mean myocyte diameter. Increased circulating levels of hepatocyte growth factor (HGF), leukemia inhibitory factor, and macrophage colony-stimulating factor were associated with the mobilization of c-Kit-positive, CD31-positive, and CD133-positive progenitor cells and a subsequent increase in myocardial c-Kit-positive cells. Trophic effects of MSCs further activated the expression of HGF, IGF-II, and VEGF in the myocardium. The work highlights a cardiac repair mechanism mediated by trophic cross-talks among the injected MSCs, bone marrow, and heart that can be explored for noninvasive stem cell therapy.
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