Stem Cell Therapy Holds Out Hope to Heart Patients
"We don't know if this increase was due to the growth of new heart muscle cells resulting from the stem cell injections or whether the stem cells coaxed existing cells to come out of hibernation," said Amit Patel, of Pittsburgh University's school of medicine.
"Further investigation is needed to replicate these results, quantify the optimal timing of the injection, and look at the cellular effects of the therapy."
The South American trials are continuing and in a separate study two patients with inoperable heart failure in Uruguay have received stem cells injected into the heart. A patient in Palermo, Sicily, will soon undergo a similar procedure.
Further research at Pittsburgh is expected to involve injection of stem cells into patients implanted with devices to help keep their hearts beating. Surgeons hope at least one of these might receive a heart transplant, enabling them a rare opportunity to study more closely the effect of the stem cell injections.
Robert Kormos, professor of surgery at Pittsburgh, said: "These results encourage us aggressively to pursue cellular therapies as an option for congestive heart failure. It will revolutionise our approach, which is largely palliative, to one that is truly regenerative."
Belinda Linden, head of medical information for the British Heart Foundation, said: "This small but important study offers yet more evidence of the potential benefits of stem cells when injected into damaged heart tissue. This is particularly significant as incidence of heart failure is increasing."
But she added: "It must be remembered this treatment is experimental."
Source: Guardian Newspapers
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