December 1, 2011

Using Stem Cells to Help Reverse Heart Damage

By Embra King

For as long as medicine has been practiced and the human heart examined, the medical world believed that heart damage was permanent and there was nothing to be done about it. On Monday however, two different groups released reports that will change how we treat heart conditions. Dr. Robert Bolli’s group and a teamfrom Cedars-Sinai have both produced separate reports that, in at least a small group of test subjects, stem cell therapy has been able reverse heart damage with no serious side effects.

The results when compared to patients not treated with a clean stem cell transfer have been remarkable. The amount of blood pumped through the heart with each beat in Bolli’s patients increased by an average 8% increase in blood flow in only a four-month span. That percentage was as high as 12% in patients that were followed for a year. With this increase in blood flow Bolli’s patients are able to partake in physical activities that they could no longer do after the heart damage The previous method of trying to surgically open up the patient’s artery has yielded little to no effect.

In the Cedars-Sinai study, researchers found a 30 to 47% reduction in scar tissue in patients who received healthy stem cell transfers. It also increased the production of healthy new tissue, up to 600 million new heart cells.

The most rewarding aspect from the two studies is that of the thirty-three patients between the two studies, none of those receiving stem cells suffered from a major health setback.

What researchers have found are that the heart naturally produces stem cells that can repair the heart, just not in near enough quantities to fix damage done from heart attacks or heart disease. So what researchers have done is to extract these good cells and make millions of copies in a lab for the transfer to an unhealthy heart.

While testing is still young, and the need to do research on a larger scale will be needed before this process is approved as a standard practice, doctor and researchers remain positive. This advancement has the possibility of being the most important advancements in the study of cardiology. Dr. Bolli is for one very optimistic about recent discoveries, “We would possibly be curing heart failure. It would be a revolution.”

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