Injecting a Cure Strait into the Heart
April 2, 2014

Injecting A Cure Strait Into The Heart

Ischemic heart disease, or coronary artery disease as it is better known, is the leading cause of death among both men and women in the United States. It is caused by a buildup of plaque in the coronary arteries and can lead to chest pain, heart attack, and heart failure. I am sure most of you know someone who has suffered from this. Its hard not to given how common it is. Not too long ago, my uncle had a heart attack. Fortunately, he was able to get treatment and is doing fine now, that experience was a wake-up call for him, as well as for a lot of our family. It put into perspective just how important taking care of your heart really is. There are many treatments out there for ischemic heart disease, but none of them have been proven to be able to help everyone or are able to prevent patients from suffering from things like fatigue, shortness of breath, or the buildup of fluid in both the lungs and the legs. Fortunately, there is a new treatment out there that has just undergone human trails. A treatment in which stem cells found in bone marrow – mesenchymal stromal cells – are injected directly into the heart muscle.

This study consisted of 59 patients who all suffer from chronic ischemic heart disease as well s severe heart failure. Each of them had a small amount of bone marrow extracted in order to collect the needed stem cells. After gathering them, the researchers induced the cells to self-replicate. Each of the patients was then given an injection of either saline placebo or their own cultured mesenchymal stromal cells, which were delivered to the heart via a catheter inserted in the groin. This double-blind study was done in order to verify the findings of previous studies and hypothesis regarding the mesenchymal stromal cells and what effect they might have on the patients’ hearts. Previous studies have shown that these stem cells can stimulate repair and even regeneration in a variety of tissues, including the heart muscle, and in this case the treatment was believed to work by aiding in the growth of new blood vessels and heart tissue. Six months after the initial injections, patients who received stem cell injections showed improved heart pump functions when compared to those who received the placebo. Those who were treated showed an average of an 8.2-milliliter decrease in the end systolic volume which indicates the lowest volume of blood in the heart while pumping – a key measurement of the heart’s ability to function effectively while the placebo group showed an increase of up to 6-milliliters in end systolic volume. This study also supported findings from other studies that showed a reduction in scar tissue in the hearts of patients, which gives additional confirmation to the hypothesis that the mesenchymal stromal cells stimulate the growth of new heart muscle cells.

While the treatment still needs to undergo a Phase III trail before it will garner approval as a widely-used therapy for coronary artery disease, news of its Phase II trail has been very well received. Due to its using the patient’s own stem cells, it is able to treat a wider range of patients than other forms of treatment and acts to treat all symptoms of ischemic heart disease. This treatment shows a great deal of promise and I look forward to seeing its application on a larger scale.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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