March 23, 2011

Heart Damage Improves With Stem Cell Injection

(Ivanhoe Newswire) "“ It's been shown for the first time that stem cells injected into enlarged hearts reduced hear size, reduced scar tissue, and improved function to injured heart areas, according to this human trial.

The researchers believe that the findings are promising for the more than five million Americans who have enlarged hearts due to damage sustained from heart attacks. Patients with enlarged hearts can suffer premature death, have major disability, and experience frequent hospitalizations. Currently, options for treatments are limited to lifelong medications and major medical interventions, such as heart transplantation.

Using catheters, researchers injected stem cells derived from the patient's own bone marrow into the hearts of eight men (average age 57) with chronically enlarged, low-functioning hearts.

"The injections first improved function in the damaged area of the heart and then led to a reduction in the size of the heart. This was associated with a reduction in scar size. The effects lasted for a year after the injections, which was the full duration of the study," Joshua M. Hare, M.D., the study's senior author and professor of medicine and director of the Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami in Miami, Fla., was quoted as saying.

Researchers found that heart size decreased an average of 15 to 20 percent, which about three times what is possible with current treatments. Scar tissue decreased by an average of 18.3 percent, and there was much improvement in the function of specific heart areas that were damaged.

"This therapy improved even old cardiac injuries," Hare said. "Some of the patients had damage to their hearts from heart attacks as long as 11 years before treatment."

The researchers used two different types of bone marrow stem cells- mononuclear or mesenchymal stem cells. The study lacked the power to determine if one type of cell works better than the other. All patients in the study benefited from the therapy and tolerated the injections with no serious adverse events.

Hare said their findings suggest that patients' quality of life could improve as the result of this therapy because the heart is a more normal size and is better functioning. "But, we have yet to prove this clinical benefit "“ this is an experimental therapy in phase one studies. These findings support further clinical trials and give us hope that we can help people with enlarged hearts."

SOURCE: Circulation Research: Journal of the American Heart Association, published online March 17, 2011