NEW ORLEANS (FRONTLINE MEDICAL NEWS) – Regenerative medicine has much to offer the cardiovascular field, although there is still a way to go before it is ready for routine clinical application, according to Andre Terzic, MD, PhD, director of the Mayo Clinic Center for Regenerative Medicine and a professor in Cardiovascular Diseases Research at the Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minn.

Trials testing a variety of stem cell approaches in patients with conditions such as acute myocardial infarction, peripheral arterial disease, and dilated cardiomyopathy are providing important lessons about this novel strategy and showing its potential, he said in a state of the science talk at the American Heart Association scientific sessions.

Impact on therapeutic approaches and goals

“This is a true paradigm shift in how we are approaching patients from a more traditional fighting of disease, whether it’s in the vascular or cardiac arena, to ultimately really where regenerative medicine is driving: rebuilding vascular and heart health,” Dr. Terzic maintained.

Moreover, regenerative medicine is expanding the goals of care. “It’s not necessarily just focused on repair, but there is this whole continuum of prevention, protection, and repair, in the context of the aging patient and in the context of matching health span with life span in this increasingly vulnerable population,” he elaborated.

Leaders in the field have put forth an associated value proposition, estimating that a decade from now, regenerative medicine will account for about 10% of all health care delivered globally, according to Dr. Terzic. And research presented at the meeting is a major step in that direction.

The potential applications in cardiovascular medicine are numerous, he proposed. Regenerative medicine might be used in prophylactic strategies, for protection against chronic disease, and in bridging strategies, to delay transplantation in patients with end organ damage. It might also be used in combination approaches, to augment the efficacy of primary therapy, and even to generate new organs for patients who have run out of options.

The specific therapeutic goals depend on the stage of disease. For example, the goal is to boost cardioprotection and limit inflammation in acute myocardial infarction; to augment myocardial regenerative reserve and improve survival in subacute disease; and to enhance the pro-reparative environment and restore structure and function in the setting of chronic cardiomyopathy.

Bringing regenerative medicine to the clinic

Ultimately, the health care field is striving to bring the science of regenerative medicine into the clinic, and turn the research pipeline into a clinical service line, Dr. Terzic said.

As might be expected, the whole process begins with identification of an unmet need in patients, which in turn generates a specific practice advancement goal. In the cardiovascular arena, the process has largely been driven by smaller collaborative groups and champions in the field, but is increasingly garnering new support from the business world and national networks.

“The importance at the moment is the experiences that are being built allow for a true iterative process in harnessing this new knowledge and essentially developing even more refined and more effective solutions as we look into the future,” Dr. Terzic commented.

“The cardiovascular field is clearly not alone, but is working in tandem with many other fields that are evolving rapidly in this area,” he added. “And I think the collective experience will be one of the main drivers as we build this shared vision for a practice not only for regenerative solutions, but for practice-integrated regenerative medicine, ultimately, as one of the models of care in the decade to come.”

A blueprint for moving forward

Dr. Terzic and his colleagues at the Mayo Clinic have developed a framework for advancing the field that is being used at their institution but could also be used elsewhere ( Eur Heart J. 2016;37:1089-90 ).

“What we have historically been doing for the last decade or so is really building this discovery knowledge, and then moving it into translation and ultimately application,” he explained. “We call this a blueprint, a blueprint that has helped us all collectively get where we are today.”

For each of these three domains, investigators strive to build out the concept, starting with the specific regenerative technology or product, proceeding to its manufacture or production, and eventually devising ways to deliver it to patients through a clinical-grade supply chain available at the point of care.

“There is a new evolving concept of truly building a regenerative medicine care model,” summarized Dr. Terzic, who disclosed no relevant conflicts of interest. “Today, we are not fully there. We are really speaking about technological and translational readiness. But ultimately, the goal is to ensure clinical readiness.”


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