|heart muscle cells matured from embryonic stem cells, |
courtesy of Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute
"They need to be stimulated," John Cashman told the San Diego Union Tribune. "They need to have a good reason to turn into heart cells." Cashman, from the Human BioMolecular Institute, is one of the authors of a new study published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry which identifies a chemical that might just provide that stimulation.
Sanford-Burnham’s Mark Mercola, who worked with Cashman, added: "Regeneration is thought to be an adaptive response to injury, but it just doesn't work all that well. The problem is that it needs to be goosed up." The group is working with the company ChemRegen to develop their chemical into a possible therapy.
The group found a chemical called IDT-1 that turns mouse and human embryonic stem cells in to heart cells in a lab dish. The idea is that this chemical might encourage stem cells in the heart to turn into heart muscle cells and repair damage that occurs after a heart attack. Basically, IDT-1 might goose those inactivated stem cells in the heart.
Writing for the Union Tribune, Bradley Fikes explains why getting from this promising chemical to human trials takes time. Mostly, it has to do with whether the drug is going to be safe. Sure, it prods stem cells to turn into heart cells, but what good is that if it also damages the liver, or causes other harm?
But before ChemRegen can start clinical trials on a drug based on IDT-1, it must be tested for toxicity and taken through animal studies to see if it provides therapeutic benefit," Cashman said. All told, that may cost about $3 million to $4 million, with $1 million going for toxicology studies and the rest for animal studies. ChemRegen plans to seek partnerships with drug companies or other investors to fund that work.Then, even if the drug is safe and effective in animal studies, there’s still the concern that older adults, who are most likely to have heart attacks, might not have sufficient numbers of heart stem cells to repair the damage, even if they are properly stimulated. Mercola called that the million dollar question.
These questions are why it’s important to be funding a range of possible techniques for treating heart disease. This page lists all the awards CIRM is funding that focus on approaches to treating the disease.
Schade D, Lanier M, Willems E, Okolotowicz K, Bushway P, Wahlquist C, Gilley C, Mercola M, & Cashman JR (2012). Synthesis and SAR of b-Annulated 1,4-Dihydropyridines Define Cardiomyogenic Compounds as Novel Inhibitors of TGFβ Signaling. Journal of medicinal chemistry PMID: 23130626