Autologous Mesenchymal Stem Cells Produce Concordant Improvements in Regional Function, Tissue Perfusion and Fibrotic Burden when Administered to Patients Undergoing Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting – The PROMETHEUS Trial

Rationale: While accumulating data support the efficacy of intramyocardial cell-based therapy to improve LV function in patients with chronic ischemic cardiomyopathy undergoing CABG, the underlying mechanism and impact of cell injection site remain controversial. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) improve LV structure and function through several effects including: reducing fibrosis, neoangiogenesis and neomyogenesis.

Objective: To test the hypothesis that the impact on cardiac structure and function following intramyocardial injections of autologous MSCs results from a concordance of pro-recovery phenotypic effects.

Methods and Results: Six patients were injected with autologous MSCs into akinetic/hypokinetic myocardial territories not receiving bypass graft for clinical reasons. MRI was used to measure scar, perfusion, wall thickness and contractility at baseline, 3, 6 and 18 months and to compare structural and functional recovery in regions that received MSC injections alone, revascularization alone, or neither. A composite score of MRI variables was used to assess concordance of antifibrotic effects, perfusion, and contraction at different regions. After 18 months, subjects receiving MSCs exhibited increased LVEF (+9.4±1.7%, p=0.0002) and decreased scar mass (-47.5±8.1%; p<0.0001) compared to baseline. MSC-injected segments had concordant reduction in scar size, perfusion and contractile improvement (concordant score: 2.93±0.07), whereas revascularized (0.5±0.21) and non-treated segments (-0.07±0.34) demonstrated non-concordant changes (p<0.0001 vs. injected segments).

Conclusions: Intramyocardial injection of autologous MSCs into akinetic yet non-revascularized segments produces comprehensive regional functional restitution, which in turn drives improvement in global LV function. These findings, although inconclusive due to lack of placebo group, have important therapeutic and mechanistic hypothesis-generating implications.