Stem Cells Fix One Man’s Broken Heart
John Christy, a war veteran, suffered from severe coronary artery disease that left him with fatigue and swollen limbs. His outcome appeared bleak: Though many surgical and technological methods exist to treat congestive heart failure, over half of patients die within five years of receiving the diagnosis.
But as more and more doctors are learning, stem cell research is opening up possibilities that can slash even the steepest odds.
In the first trial of its kind ever done in the U.S., Christy’s doctor Jon Woo from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine retrieved stem cells from Christy’s bone marrow and used them to grow blood vessels around his heart.
“They form brand new micro blood vessels and deliver blood flow to the heart muscle,” Woo said.
Mere hours after the surgery, Christy had a new lease on life – with much improved odds of survival.
“I noticed two days after my surgery, I had much more ‘umph,'” Christy said.
Until now, restoring the functionality of hearts damaged by congestive heart failure and heart attacks is one of the most challenging tasks doctors and surgeons face.
Research like this gives doctors hope that adult and embryonic stem cells can become the reliable standard for replacing the heart’s damaged muscle cells as well as creating blood vessels to route a steady supply of blood to the cells.