Stem Cell Study Shows Promising Results Against Heart
THURSDAY, May 10 (HealthDay News) -- A new treatment that
involves spinning bone marrow stem cells to enhance their healing
potential may help people with advanced heart failure feel and
function better, a small study suggests.
Researchers developed the treatment by culturing a patient's own
bone marrow for 12 days. This process helped increase the amount of
immune cells and stem cells that can differentiate into several
different cell types, including heart cells. Those cells were then
injected into heart muscle. The study was funded by treatment
manufacturer Aastrom Biosciences.
According to the findings, this treatment was safe, helped
repair the damaged heart muscle and reversed some heart failure
symptoms, when compared to a placebo injection. The findings were
to be presented Thursday at the Society for Cardiovascular
Angiography and Interventions annual meeting, in Las Vegas.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute reports that
about 5.8 million people in the United States have heart failure, a
condition that occurs when the heart can no longer pump enough
blood to meet the body's needs. Symptoms include shortness of
breath, fatigue and swelling in the ankles, feet, legs and abdomen.
There is no cure; treatment typically includes a cocktail of
medications aimed at reducing symptoms and improving quality of
"A number of people with heart failure have slowly progressing disease despite medication and/or device therapy. If we could have a therapy for this group that would slow the progression of heart failure, it would be economic and change the disease process tremendously," said study author Dr. Timothy Henry, director of research and an interventional cardiologist at the Minneapolis Heart Institute at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis. The treatment would not be used for people who need a heart transplant.
Calling it the next generation of stem cell therapy, Henry said
the treatment process helps enhance the potency of existing stem
cells. "It gives a more functional product," and when injected
these stem cells may promote the growth of new blood vessels, he
Further study is ongoing, and if the results are positive a
product could be available within two years to treat inadequate
blood supply to the legs, and soon thereafter for heart failure, he
said. According to Henry, six or seven new products that enhance
bone marrow stem cells are being developed. "Ask your doctor if you
are a candidate for any of the clinical trials," Henry advised.
The new study included 22 participants with advanced heart
failure and an enlarged heart whose current medication regimen was
no longer effective. They either received an injection of the stem
cell therapy treatment into their heart muscles or a placebo shot.
After 12 months, there were no complications and no difference in
side effects among those who received the stem cells and the
control group. That said, individuals who received the novel stem
cell therapy did have a lower number of major heart-related events
and were more likely to see improvements in their ability to walk
without growing breathless. Those who received the stem cell
treatment also showed marked improvements in their ejection
fraction, which is a measure of how much blood leaves the heart
with each pump.
"This study tells us that injecting stem cells into the heart muscle of a patient with chronic heart failure may be beneficial," says Dr. Sandeep Jauhar, director of the congestive heart failure program at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y. Typically, these individuals are treated with multiple medications, put on a low-salt diet and encouraged to get some exercise.
"The available medications are very effective and people live a lot longer than they used to because of the drugs we have developed," he said. But many people reach a ceiling in terms of how effective the medications are, he added.
"We do need a new way of treating heart failure if we want more improvement," said Jauhar, who added that it is too early to say whether the new stem cell therapy will fill that role. "It shows some improvement in pumping parameters of the heart, but that doesn't mean you will live longer," he said.
This is a small study that suggests the treatment is safe, said
Dr. Kirk Garrett, clinical director of interventional
cardiovascular research at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
"The approach is different in that most other groups zero in on one
gene or cell type, and try to make it do the work," he said, while
the new treatment involves both stem cells and immune cells that
are primed to do the job.
Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, the data
and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in
a peer-reviewed journal.
Learn more about heart failure and how it is treated at the
U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood
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