First generation stem cell therapies largely achieve their results through brief signaling changes, not through any lasting work on the part of the transplanted cells. Those cells in fact die quite rapidly, but the signals they secrete while still alive change the behavior of native cells. This produces benefits such as reduced inflammation or improved regenerative capacity. Given this, why not deliver the signals instead of the cells? It could in principle be an easier, less complex task. Much of cell signaling involves the exchange of extracellular vesicles, tiny membrane-bound packages of molecules. Numerous groups are presently engaged in animal studies of vesicle-based approaches to regenerative therapy, and the one noted here is representative of the type.
The adult human heart cannot regenerate itself after injury, and the death of cardiac muscle cells, known as cardiomyocytes, irreversibly weakens the heart and limits its ability to pump blood. Researchers have turned their focus to stem cell transplantation for cardiomyocyte replacement and recovery of heart function, but studies have shown that implanted stem cells have difficulty surviving and differentiating into cardiomyocytes to repair the damaged muscle. When stem cells were differentiated into cardiomyocytes before implantation, heart function improved, but
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