A team of researchers from the University of Utah is now trying to figure out if the new oxygenated monocyte-derived cells could be a more effective therapy for people with heart failure.
They’ve published their results in the journal Cell Reports.
The research team studied a group of mice with advanced cardiac failure that suffered from elevated oxygen levels.
In this group, researchers injected these monocytes into the heart muscle, allowing the researchers to stimulate the cells to produce oxygen and help maintain blood flow.
The mice received oxygen injections at a rate of 100,000 breaths per minute (about a 30,000-pound person).
“The oxygenation of the lungs allowed for the survival of the cells and their ability to function as they normally would, which was very important for survival,” says Dr. Mark K. Lueger, a co-author of the study and a professor of bioengineering at the University.
“Our goal was to make these cells in the heart function as normal as possible and to make them function as well as normal cells, even in the presence of elevated oxygen.”
The team is still studying the exact mechanism of how these oxygenated cells affect the heart and whether or not they can be transplanted to people with cardiac failure.
“There is no known mechanism for why these cells can have such a profound effect on a cardiac cell,” says Lueker.
“It is possible that they are part of the normal function of the heart, but there is still much we don’t know.”
The researchers have also found that when oxygenated, these monocyte cells are also able to increase oxygen levels in the blood.
This is an effect that is similar to that seen with activated monocytes that have been injected with insulin.
Luedger says that this is “very interesting” because it indicates that the cells that produce oxygen in the lungs can also be activated.
The researchers also found a role for these oxygen-producing cells in preventing myocardial infarction (heart attack) in humans.
But, they found no evidence that oxygen-induced cardiac damage was related to the type of heart failure that these cells were injected with.
The next step is to see if the oxygenated and oxygen-activated cells can be used to treat patients with cardiac arrest, as well.
“We have not tested whether or how these cells might be used in a patient with heart arrest,” says Kueger.
“But the data we are getting is encouraging.”
This article originally appeared on Ars Technic’s sister site, The Verge.