Healing the Heart: An Author Spotlight on Georgina Ellison

How do you mend a broken heart? When it comes to love, this is a difficult question to answer. However, when it comes to heart failure, a leading cause of death worldwide, scientists are finding that the answer might be found within the heart.   In 2009, researchers discovered that the heart is able to generate heart cells throughout a person’s lifetime. CORRECTION:  This finding means that developing new stem cell-based strategies to treat heart failure is now becoming a feasible option.

In this author spotlight, Georgina Ellison, a Reader at Liverpool John Moores University, answers a few questions about her team’s recently published article on how cardiac stem cells (CSCs) not only have the increased ability to replace lost heart muscle but also have a ‘paracrine’ effect on the survival of heart muscle cells.

First a bit of background – how did you become interested in Cardiac Stem Cell Biology?

During my PhD studies I discovered some small newly formed cardiomyocytes in the injured cardiac samples I was working on. Considering the accepted paradigm of the heart at that time was as a non-proliferative organ I did not think what I found was possible, therefore I contacted Professor Bernardo Nadal-Ginard, a world-leading expert in this field, and asked for his opinion on my findings.  Prof. Nadal-Ginard was very interested in what I had discovered and offered me the opportunity to come and study further in his lab in New York, using state of the art techniques and technologies and work with his team of first class experienced researchers.

In the paper you mention that there have been many types of stem cells suggested as suitable candidates for heart cell regeneration. Bone marrow derived cells (BMDCs) are one of these suggested candidates however, you suggest using cardiac stem cells instead.  Can you explain why CSCs seem to be more promising?

So far clinical trials have used bone marrow derived cells (BMDCs) for heart repair after a heart attack. However, the improvements in heart function are modest and this could be because the bone marrow cells are not the best type of cell to be used to regenerate the lost contractile heart muscle or cardiomyocytes. We show that the endogenous CSCs have potent cardiomyocyte regenerative potential and also play a paracrine role by improving cardiomyocyte survival. In the new era of regenerative medicine it is essential to ascertain the ‘optimal’ type of cell to be used for regenerative myocardial therapies and a cell that has regenerative and renewal capacity, as well as exerting pro-survival and paracrine effects would be the ideal cell of choice.

Of the videos in your manuscript, you highlighted the one above as particularly interesting. The cells in the video express high levels of GATA-4, which is an important early maker gene in cardiomyocyte development. Can you explain why this video is notable?

This video shows that even when the GATA-4 highly expressing CSCs do not have direct cell-to-cell contact with the cardiomyocytes, the cardiomyocytes’ contractility is maintained for up to 3 weeks in vitro. This has never been shown before and was not apparent when other types of cells were used, i.e. fibroblasts or GATA-4 low expressing CSCs.

What is your next big research project? Or where do you want to go from here?

Our next big research project is to establish and manufacture the optimal cardiac regenerative treatment and this regenerative therapy must be an off-the-shelf, safe, effective, simple, available to all and affordable treatment.

Why did you decide to publish in PLoS ONE?

Because it is open access and freely available online, which is how it should be nowadays. Also, it has added features such as being able to comment on papers and metrics information on papers. Altogether, these contribute greatly to the overall impact of your research, and assessing impact is now very important in biomedical research.

The paper by Ellison, Nanako Kawaguchi, Andrew J. Smith, Cheryl D. Waring, Md Kamrul Hasan, Shinka Miyamoto and Rumiko Matsuoka paper is entitled, c-kitpos GATA-4 High Rat Cardiac Stem Cells Foster Adult Cardiomyocyte Survival through IGF-1 Paracrine Signalling. This paper is freely available to comment on, read and rate.  If you are interested in reading more about stem cell therapy research you can try searching here.

This entry was posted in Interviews and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Healing the Heart: An Author Spotlight on Georgina Ellison

  1. Pingback: Quick Links | A Blog Around The Clock

  2. don margolis says:

    Excellent article and exciting paper. I am surprised that Ms. Ellison, having learned while in America that only embryonic stem cells have any future and that adult stem cells are snake oil, is still pursuing her dream.

    Of course she would not be able to publish with ISSCR whose mission is to make sure adult stem cells (ASC) never are approved (to protect PhRMA’s profits). After all, despite over 1700 published papers, ISSCR still publicizes the word “UNPROVEN” whenever they mention ASC. They also ignore the fact that almost all of those papers concern human results while their embryonic hoax publishes nothing greater than curing mice of hangnails.

    Finally, the American FDA would never allow anything to replace PhRMA’s useless pills and their billions of revenue. Her “off-the-shelf” pills could not be made for a penny and sold for a pound, absolutely required by the super-profitable chemical model.
    Don Margolis, Chairman
    Repair Stem Cell Institute

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  3. Mary Knudson says:

    I wish these researchers well with their cardiac stem cell work, but I have to disagree very strongly with two misleading statements you make about heart failure. Please understand that when you make blanket statements about a disease or condition that inflate its severity, people who have that condition are very frightened to read what you wrote. Many people with heart failure don’t know enough about it to separate out the truth from the non truth.

    First, despite what one researcher said in trying to advance the importance of his work, heart failure is not “a leading cause of death worldwide.” Just think about it. In the vast developing areas of the world, people typically don’t live long enough to develop heart failure. Much bigger problems than heart failure are dying during childbirth, AIDS, tuberculosis, parasitic and infectious diseases, starvation, malnutrition, dehydration. Even when they develop coronary artery disease, people in developing countries are much more likely to die of a heart attack than to recover from the heart attack and live long enough to develop heart failure. Life expectancy in Kenya, for example, is 52 to 55 years. Heart failure doesn’t usually develop before the mid to late fifties and sixties. Many people with heart failure are in their seventies and eighties.

    And as for dying of heart failure in the developed world, that is also less likely than it was even a decade ago. A report released this week by the American Heart Association found that in the United States deaths rates from cardiovascular disease including heart failure dropped 27.8% from 1997 to 2007. For many, heart failure has become more of a chronic condition that is treatable and is not what will kill them.

    So your statement that “developing strategies to treat heart failure is now becoming a feasible option” implies that there are now no effective treatments for heart failure. But there are many existing effective treatments for heart failure including ACE inhibitors and beta blockers and other drug combinations and implanted devices that help the heart work better.

    I wish all researchers well who are working on cardiac stem cells, one use which could be to replace heart tissue that died in a myocardial infarction or heart attack. There is certainly a group of patients with intractable symptoms for which there is no treatment to stop their heart failure. But that is not true of most people who have heart failure. Heart failure has many causes, only one of which is coronary artery disease that leads to heart attacks that kill part of a person’s heart. Heart failure today is not a death sentence.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
    • Jen Laloup says:

      Thank you for your comment Mary. I never intended to make misleading statements or inflate a disease or condition’s severity. I’ve decided to amend my statement on “developing strategies to treat heart failure is now becoming a feasible option.” The amended version now reads: “This finding means that developing new stem cell-based strategies to treat heart failure is now becoming a feasible option.”

      VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
      Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  4. Mary Knudson says:

    Thank you for being so gracious, Jen. I appreciate that heart disease is not a specialty that you cover and can see how you would pick up from what a researcher said. I am sensitive to seeing heart failure over-portrayed as a killer disease, a disease that will progress, because 8 years ago when I developed heart failure I knew nothing about it and was frightened to read some statements on the internet and in a book that made it seem like heart failure is a death sentence. It took me quite some time to educate myself about heart failure and I came to appreciate that I had to pick and choose carefully what I read. Your rewording about stem-cell based strategies is perfect! How I hope Georgina Ellison’s work bears fruit. Stem cells could mean a world of difference for quite a few patients with heart failure.

    You now have me as an interested reader and I will look for more of your posts! Thank you.

    Mary

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  5. deepthi mithel says:

    I am a PhD scholar working on cardiac stem cells.I have been looking for the isolation of cardiac stem cells.i am really confused with these cells since I am getting them without the spruoting of fibroblasts.It will be a great help if you can give me some guidelines regarding their isolation

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>