Development of therapeutic cardiac telocytes to prevent heart failure after acute myocardial infarction

Project start
Institution: Kerckhoff-Klinik, Bad Nauheim
Applicant: PD Dr. Manfred Richter
Breeding of telocytes in cell culture. Telocytes will be characterized using biological methods, and cells with the best properties will be amplified by cultivation. Finally, “therapeutic telocytes” shall be used in the clinic.

Due to the report by the „Deutsche Herzstiftung“, nearly every fourth German dies of a heart disease. One of the leading causes of heart disease is myocardial infarction, which affects more than 200.000 people and which is the cause of death for around 50.000 patients every year. Often, heart failure develops after myocardial infarction, and transplantation is left as the last therapeutic option. Thus, an infarction represents not only a serious health issue but also a massive economic challenge for the health care system. A further issue is the limitation of present pharmacologic treatment options which leads to a world-wide search for innovative therapies for patients. The aim is to delay the development of chronic heart failure and in the best case to repair the existing damage.

A novel promising approach is the transplantation of therapeutic precursor cells. These cells are expected to transform in the tissue into functioning heart cells, thereby replacing dead cells. Unfortunately, despite initial hype it has not been convincingly shown that precursor cells are indeed able to replace dead heart muscle tissue. We also take the approach of cell therapy in patients suffering from heart attack, however, we will utilize telocytes. The telocyte is a recently discovered new cell type that has been documented in various organs and is expected to contribute to the recovery of damaged tissue. Telocytes are very long, thin and branching cells, which are essentially characterized by little cytoplasmic mass and extreme long extensions.

Our observations that the number of telocytes in patients with chronic heart failure is reduced in comparison to healthy tissue and that this cell type exerts protective activity on cultured cardiac cells indicate important functions in the recovery after myocardial infarction. We expect that telocytes accelerate healing of the damaged heart after myocardial infarction by the formation of new vessels as well as growth of surviving heart muscle cells. Finally, these processes should prevent the development of chronic heart failure. Therefore, the focus of our project is to clarify the therapeutic effect of telocytes and in future to develop a therapy for patients with an acute heart attack.

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Project partners
Dr. Thomas Kubin
Abteilung Herzchirurgie der Kerckhoff-Klinik
Benekestr. 2-8
61231 Bad Nauheim

Dr. Kerstin Troidl
Abteilung Pharmakologie
Max-Planck-Institut
Ludwigstr. 43
61231 Bad Nauheim