The results for treating patients with severe congestive heart failure were obtained from the first randomized trial of stem cell therapy. They were presented at a meeting of the American Association for Thoracic Surgery.
The research was done by Amit Patel and his colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine along with Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas and the Benetti Foundation in Rosario, Argentina.
The researchers said their findings provide the first convincing evidence that transplantation of adult stem cells that promote growth of blood vessels and heart muscle can be a viable treatment for congestive heart failure.
Their multi-center trial involved 20 patients with severe heart failure. It showed stem cells introduced into a heart damaged from heart attack or chronic illness could feasibly differentiate into heart muscle cells and cells.
These cells promoted new vessel growth, thereby improving the heart's ability to contract more effectively and restoring blood supply to the heart itself.
None of the patients experienced serious side effects or complications and there were no abnormal heart rhythms associated with the stem cell injections, they said.
Patel said further investigation is needed to replicate these results, quantify the optimal timing of injection and to look at the cellular effects of the therapy.
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