Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) play a remarkable role in assisting the heart when it's damaged. These cells have the unique ability to do several important tasks that contribute to heart healing.
Replacing Damaged Heart Cells: MSCs can turn into heart muscle cells, also known as cardiomyocytes. When injected into the heart, they have the potential to fill in for the damaged or dead heart muscle cells. This process is like sending in reinforcements to rebuild the weakened parts of the heart.
Supporting Weak Heart Cells: MSCs release special substances called paracrine factors that act like lifelines for struggling heart cells. These factors activate signals in the heart cells that help them survive and function better. For instance, they release substances like interleukin 1-β (IL-1β) and platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) that promote the well-being of heart cells.
Building New Blood Vessels: MSCs are like construction workers for the heart. They release substances, including vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), which stimulate the growth of fresh blood vessels in the damaged heart area. These new blood vessels bring much-needed oxygen and nutrients to the heart cells, essentially rescuing them from the brink of failure.
Reducing Inflammation: After a heart attack, the immune system can become overactive, causing more harm than good. MSCs help by releasing substances that calm down this immune response. By dampening the inflammation, MSCs prevent further damage and scarring in the heart.
In essence, MSCs act as a team of repair workers, replacing damaged parts, supplying essential resources, and even moderating the body's response to injury. This multi-pronged approach makes them a promising therapy for healing the heart after a heart attack.