Gap Junctions in Stem Cells Provide an Essential Conduit for Cell-Cell Communication

Background: Myocardial infarction (MI) results from the death of cardiomyocytes (CM) following obstruction of blood flow and diminished oxygen supply to the tissue (hypoxia). Human adipose tissue-derived stem cells (hADSCs) used in pre-clinical models can replace damaged CM, however, this has not been replicated in human clinical trials due to early loss of hADSCs. We hypothesize that coupling of hADSCs to dying CMs may account for part of this loss.
Methods: hADSCs will be cultured for different lengths of time with fluorescent dyes that are either permeable or impermeable to the cell membrane. We will assess the time course of coupling between hADSCs under both normoxic and hypoxic conditions by using fluorescent-activated cell sorting (FACS).
Results: Our previous studies demonstrate that stem cells possess membrane proteins (connexins) that contribute to cell-cell coupling. The proposed studies will address the functional significance of connexins related to hADSC coupling.