Promising and perilous? The ambivalent role of the CXCL12/ CXCR4 axis in heart repair

The chemokine CXCL12 acts as a chemical signal which mobilizes hematopoietic and other types of stem cells to leave the bone marrow and enter the circulation. Secretion of CXCL12 also guides these cells to sites at which the perfusion of tissue is sub-optimal due to localized obstruction of blood flow. These capabilities have made CXCL12 and its cognate receptor CXCR4 interesting candidates for therapies aimed at mitigating the effects of damage to the heart caused by myocardial infarction.

A team of researchers led by Professor Christian Weber of the Medical Center of the University of Munich has now taken a closer look at the normal physiological function of this ligand-receptor couple. Their results reveal that the molecules have "rather ambivalent roles," as Weber puts it.

remains one of the leading causes of death in Western societies. The condition occurs when parts of the heart muscle can no longer be adequately supplied with oxygen because blood flow through the coronary arteries is impeded. Researchers have therefore suggested that CXCL12 and CXCR4 could perhaps be used therapeutically to direct stem cells required for the formation of new blood vessels to migrate into ischemic, i.e. poorly perfused, tissues and thus help to increase blood flow in such areas.

"The precise of the chemokine and its receptor are poorly understood, although these are the crucial determinants of their therapeutic potential and of possible side-effects," Weber points out. "We therefore studied the effects of infarction in an animal model in which the amount of CXCR4 produced is specifically reduced. We focused on the molecular and cellular consequences of infarction, particularly with respect to the recovery of , formation of , severity of inflammation, and neovascularization of ."

To their surprise the researchers found that reduction of the CXCR4 level correlated with significant reductions in infarct size and the degree of tissue inflammation, but that recovery of blood flow and neovascularization were concomitantly decreased. These opposing effects together meant that heart function was equally impaired whether or not the level of CXCR4 function was reduced.

"However, we did see some evidence for an improvement in adaptation to sub-optimal levels of oxygen," Weber remarks. "Although we cannot assume that these results are immediately applicable to the human heart, they do point toward the possibility – especially in the case of systemic therapy – of quite critical side-effects. We should perhaps focus on more localized approaches, such as the direct injection of stem cells with higher levels of CXCR4, or of CXCL12 variants that remain confined to the damaged areas of the heart or retain their activity in the coronary arteries for longer." (suwe/PH)

More information: Double-Edged Role of the CXCL12/CXCR4 Axis in Experimental Myocardial Infarction, Elisa A. Liehn et al.
Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Vol. 58, No. 23, 29. November 2011
doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2011.08.033

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

BP-lowering therapy reduces stroke, death in grade 1 HTN

Dec 24, 2014

(HealthDay)—For patients with grade 1 hypertension, blood pressure-lowering therapy is associated with a reduction in blood pressure and a lower likelihood of stroke and death, according to research published ...

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

tthb
not rated yet Nov 30, 2011
yes, sorry; 'hitting' things around to much & not really, at crippled; sorry- as in the good; a circus, eh?; how are the bastards doing?; racial gratuitous, but crusade if They can help it

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.