Dr. Roberto Bolli of the University of Louisville in Kentucky and Dr. Piero Anversa at Brigham and Women's Hospital/Harvard Medical School in Boston said the study involved 16 patients diagnosed with heart failure following a heart attack.
The researchers harvested cardiac stem cells from the patients during coronary artery bypass surgery conducted at Jewish Hospital in Louisville. The stem cells were purified in Boston and allowed to grow and once there were about 1 million of the stem cells per patients, Bolli's team in Louisville reintroduced them into the region of the patient's heart that had been scarred by the heart attack.
The study, published in The Lancet, showed an average of 12 percent improvement in one year following an investigative treatment that involved infusing them with their own stem cells -- triple the 4 percent improvement average the researchers projected for the Phase I trial.
"The results are striking," Bolli said in a statement. "While we do not yet know why the improvement occurs, we have no doubt now that ejection fraction increased and scarring decreased. If these results hold up in future studies, I believe this could be the biggest revolution in cardiovascular medicine in my lifetime."
The findings were presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions in Orlando, Fla.