The main research focus of the RTC is the identification of the function of selected stem cell populations as well as the decoding of complex regeneration processes. Thereby we initially concentrated on primary bone marrow-derived stem cells of the sub-populations CD133+ (hematopoietic stem cells) and CD271+ (mesenchymal stem cells). Recently, we also succeeded to isolate and characterize cardiomyocyte subtypes, such as Mesp1+ progenitor cells or pace maker cells+ which we also intend to use for the development of new therapy approaches.
Findings from basic research as well as the application of newly developed technologies are the basis for the set-up of our “pipeline”. In this context we rely on both new regenerative approaches and optimization of already existing therapies. We consider the targeted modification of stem cells by means of gene transfer to have a promising potential for the efficacy improvement of stem cell therapies.
That is, we focus on magnetic nanoparticles for the non-viral gene transfer. Furthermore, we deal with cell-seeding technologies within the scope of a cardiac “tissue engineering”. We intend to achieve efficacy improvement of stem cell therapies by means of “local drug release” of erythropoietin. Additional research approaches involve the improvement of stem cell migration to the target area by means of factors such as SDF1 and the impact of receptor molecules such as AT II receptors on cardiac repair processes.
Following a preparation period of several years a randomized, double-blinded, clinical Phase III trial was initiated in our study center in autumn 2009. The coordinating principal investigator of this multicenter trial which includes six sites is Prof. Dr. G. Steinhoff cooperating with our industrial partners. The study is to provide systematic evidence for the beneficial impact of autologous bone marrow-derived CD133+ stem cells on the regeneration of infarcted tissues. Subsequent to a successful completion of the trial we will apply for the European authorization of the stem cell therapy and we will foster its general eligibility for reimbursement by the compulsory health insurances in Germany. Only after these important steps a quality-assured evidence-based stem cell therapy will be available for all cardiac infarction patients Europe.