By Wendy Sarubbi | February 19, 2018 4:50 pm

Stem cells derived from mice could reduce heart damage from a popular chemotherapy drug commonly used to treat breast cancer, according to a study out of the UCF College of Medicine.

The drug, Doxorubicin, is powerful in destroying cancer cells, but can also cause cardiomyopathy, irregular heartbeat and skeletomuscular disease. In fact, the American Heart Association reports that breast cancer survivors 65 and older, who received drugs like Doxorubicin are more likely to die of cardiovascular problems than breast cancer. Scientists so far have not discovered an effective protection against Doxorubicin’s side effects.

College of Medicine cardiovascular researcher Dr. Dinender Singla hopes to change that. With a $3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Singla and Dr. Rakesh Kukreja of the Virginia Commonwealth University found that embryonic stem-cells from mouse embryos protected heart and skeletal muscle cells from Doxorubicin and reduced cell death caused by inflammation.

The team is also the first to report that Doxorubicin causes pyroptosis – a form of cell death caused by inflammation, which affects the heart and muscles. Findings of the study were published in the Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology.

Stem cells are unique because they can develop into many different cell types in the body.  They have been used to treat conditions like heart disease and Parkinson’s, because of their potential to regenerate and repair damaged tissue.

For the study, Dr. Singla isolated exosomes, small sacs outside of cells, from embryonic stem cells and used them to treat heart and skeletal muscles cells that had been exposed to Doxorubicin.  The exosomes blocked the formation of inflammatory white blood cells and stopped the Doxorubicin from causing cell death, Dr. Singla said.

Dr. Singla said he believes the exosomes function in two ways – they block inflammation and turn remaining inflammatory cells into healing cells.

The next step will be to conduct studies on mouse models.  Scientists want to make sure the stem cell therapy does not impact Doxorubicin’s ability to kill cancer cells but only lessens its side effects.

“Ultimately, if future studies are successful, patients who receive treatment with exosomes should have less cardiac and skeletal muscular toxicity,” Dr. Singla explained, “which means muscle function will not be affected and they will have less damage to the heart.”

Dr. Singla has previously published studies on mouse embryonic stem cells in the prevention of Doxorubicin induced cardiac and muscle disease. He is the head of the Metabolic and Cardiovascular research division at the College of Medicine. He received his Ph.D. from the Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, India. He is involved in the multidisciplinary areas of research related to stem cells, heart failure, diabetes, inflammation and cardiac regeneration in cell culture and in vivo models. He has published more than 70 peer-reviewed papers in leading journals.

















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