Cell transplantation therapy will mean a breakthrough in resolving the donor shortage in cardiac transplantation. Cardiomyocyte (CM) transplantation, however, has been relatively inefficient in restoring cardiac function after myocardial infarction (MI) due to low engraftment of transplanted CM. In order to ameliorate engraftment of CM, the novel transplantation strategy must be invented. Gelatin hydrogel (GH) is a biodegradable water-soluble polymer gel. Gelatin is made of collagen. Although we observed that collagen strongly induced the aggregation of platelets to potentially cause coronary microembolization, GH did not enhance thrombogenicity. Therefore, GH is a suitable biomaterial in the cell therapy after heart failure. To assess the effect of GH on the improvement of cardiac function, fetal rat CM (5×106 or 1x106 cells) were transplanted with GH (10 mg/ml) to infarcted hearts. We compared this group with sham operated rats, CM in phosphate buffered saline (PBS), only PBS, and only GH-Transplanted groups. Three weeks after transplantation, cardiac function was evaluated by echocardiography. The echocardiography confirmed that transplantation of 5×106 CM with GH significantly improved cardiac systolic function, compared with the CM+PBS group (fractional area change: 75.1±3.4% vs. 60.7±5.9%, p<0.05), only PBS, and only GH groups (60.1±6.5%, 65.0±2.8%, p<0.05). Pathological analyses demonstrated that in the CM+GH group, CM were efficiently engrafted in infarcted myocardium (p<0.01) and angiogenesis was significantly enhanced (p<0.05) in both central and peripheral areas of the scar. Moreover, quantitative RT-PCR revealed that angiogenic cytokines, such as basic fibroblast growth factor, vascular endothelial growth factor, and hepatocyte growth factor, were significantly enriched in the CM+GH group (p<0.05). Here, we report that GH confined the CM effectively in infarcted myocardium after transplantation, and that CM transplanted with GH improved cardiac function with a direct contraction effect and enhanced angiogenesis.
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