Morbidity and mortality from ischaemic heart disease (IHD) and heart failure (HF) remain significant in Europe and are increasing worldwide. Patients with IHD or HF might benefit from novel therapeutic strategies, such as cell-based therapies. We recently discussed the therapeutic potential of cell-based therapies and provided recommendations on how to improve the therapeutic translation of these novel strategies for effective cardiac regeneration and repair. Despite major advances in optimizing these strategies with respect to cell source and delivery method, the clinical outcome of cell-based therapy remains unsatisfactory. Major obstacles are the low engraftment and survival rate of transplanted cells in the harmful microenvironment of the host tissue, and the paucity or even lack of endogenous cells with repair capacity. Therefore, new ways of delivering cells and their derivatives are required in order to empower cell-based cardiac repair and regeneration in patients with IHD or HF. Strategies using tissue engineering (TE) combine cells with matrix materials to enhance cell retention or cell delivery in the transplanted area, and have recently received much attention for this purpose. Here, we summarize knowledge on novel approaches emerging from the TE scenario. In particular, we will discuss how combinations of cell/bio-materials (e.g. hydrogels, cell sheets, prefabricated matrices, microspheres, and injectable matrices) combinations might enhance cell retention or cell delivery in the transplantation areas, thereby increase the success rate of cell therapies for IHD and HF. We will not focus on the use of classical engineering approaches, employing fully synthetic materials, because of their unsatisfactory material properties which render them not clinically applicable. The overall aim of this Position Paper from the ESC Working Group Cellular Biology of the Heart is to provide recommendations on how to proceed in research with these novel TE strategies combined with cell-based therapies to boost cardiac repair in the clinical settings of IHD and HF.
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