October 26, 2005
Bone marrow stem cells may heal hearts even years after heart attacksTopics: Stem Cells
Preliminary trial offers encouragement for definitive tests of cardiac regeneration technique(PDF).
Background: Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women worldwide. In 2005, over one third of all death in the world will be due to a cardiovascular condition, and in America alone over one million Americans will suffer a heart attack. The poor prognosis associated with heart disease, seen particularly with elderly patients, stems from the irreversible loss of heart cells which causes organ failure. Current treatment provides relief, but does not lead to a definitive cure. The new frontier in cardiovascular medicine lies in developing individualized diagnostics to predict a person's susceptibility to heart disease, and then preventative treatment or a cure through regeneration of the ailing heart muscle.
The current heart attack interventions referred to in the above "background" attempt to restore blood flow to the heart muscle as soon as possible, in order to limit the amount of permanent scarring. However, until now, neither clotbusting drugs nor angioplasty can restore heart tissue that has already been damaged. Earlier studies demonstrated healing of heart muscle and improved heart function following injections of stem cells directly into the heart muscle or infusions of stem cells into key heart arteries soon after a heart attack. This study, is the first to report the results of stem cell infusions into the arteries of patients many months or years after a heart attack. The researchers harvested bone marrow from the hip bones of the patients, so there was no threat of transplant rejection. After processing, stem cells from the marrow were infused through a catheter into the coronary artery where the patient's heart attack occurred.
"This new therapy is able to treat until now irreversible heart complaints and function disturbances in patients with chronic coronary artery disease after myocardial infarction, even many years after heart attack. Therefore there is hope for this large amount of patients with previous myocardial infarction and non-treatable complaints," said Bodo E. Strauer, M.D. from the Heinrich-Heine-University in Düsseldorf, Germany.Rest assured that larger trials are already underway. Meanwhile, researchers continue to refine the techniques for harvesting, processing and delivering stem cells into the damaged muscle tissue of heart attack patients.
If further trials produce similar results, cardiac regeneration using stem cells could help to not only reverse some heart attack damage, reduce symptoms and improve the daily functioning of patients; it might also reduce the risk of heart failure
Posted by Richard at October 26, 2005 9:16 PM
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