Since only little is known on stem cell therapy in non-ischemic heart failure we wanted to know whether a long-term improvement of cardiac function in non-ischemic heart failure can be achieved by stem cell transplantation.
White male New Zealand rabbits were treated with doxorubicine (3 mg/kg/week; 6 weeks) to induce dilative non-ischemic cardiomyopathy. Thereafter, we obtained autologous bone marrow stem cells (BMSC) and injected 1.5–2.0 Mio cells in 1 ml medium by infiltrating the myocardium via a left anterolateral thoracotomy in comparison to sham-operated rabbits. 4 weeks later intracardiac contractility was determined in-vivo using a Millar catheter. Thereafter, the heart was excised and processed for radioligand binding assays to detect β 1- and β 2-adrenoceptor density. In addition, catecholamine plasma levels were determined via HPLC. In a subgroup we investigated cardiac electrophysiology by use of 256 channel mapping.
In doxorubicine-treated animals β-adrenoceptor density was significantly down-regulated in left ventricle and septum, but not in right ventricle, thereby indicating a typical left ventricular heart failure. Sham-operated rabbits exhibited the same down-regulation. In contrast, BMSC transplantation led to significantly less β-adrenoceptor down-regulation in septum and left ventricle. Cardiac contractility was significantly decreased in heart failure and sham-operated rabbits, but was significantly higher in BMSC-transplanted hearts. Norepinephrine and epinephrine plasma levels were enhanced in heart failure and sham-operated animals, while these were not different from normal in BMSC-transplanted animals. Electrophysiological mapping revealed unaltered electrophysiology and did not show signs of arrhythmogeneity.