Stem Cells Show Promise in Healing Hearts Damaged by Heart Attacks

University of Miami cardiologists are reporting success in a preliminary clinical trial of a stem cell therapy they hope will someday be the standard for mending scars left over from heart attacks, according to the Miami Herald.If the procedure continues to show promising results in further trials, it may reduce the need for lifelong medication, even for transplants, researchers said.

“That’s the Holy Grail, the quest the whole field has been pursuing for close to a decade, and this is evidence we’re on the right track,” said Dr. Joshua Hare, lead author of the study and director of the UM Medical School’s Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute.

The therapy involved taking stem cells from the patient’s own bone marrow and injecting them by catheter into scar tissue in the patient’s heart caused by an earlier heart attack.  Once injected, some of the immature adult stem cells became heart muscle and triggered the heart to produce more of its own stem cells, which became heart muscle as well.

Researchers also said that the therapy was able to reduce the size of swollen hearts up to 25 percent.  Current therapies, such as medication and pacemakers, are only about to reduce heart size by about five percent.  Reduction in swelling improves the patient’s health by increasing the heart’s ability to pump blood.

There were no significant side effects reported in the study.  Now, researchers will launch into a more intensive testing phase that will take up to five years and involve hundreds of patients before it can be approved by the FDA for routine use.

Another study will test whether bone marrow from a donor can work as well as the patients own bone marrow.

The study was published in the journal Circulation Research: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Click here to read more from the Miami Herald.