Stem cells may repair damaged heart tissue

Dec. 3, 2009 at 11:28 AM
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CHICAGO, Dec. 3 (UPI) -- Chicago heart researchers say they've determined adult stem cells might help repair heart tissues damaged by a heart attack.

Rush University Medical Center scientist said the results from a Phase I study show stem cells from donor bone marrow appear to help heart attack patients recover better by growing new blood vessels to bring more oxygen to the heart.

The medical center was one of 10 U.S. cardiac centers that participated in the 53-patient, double-blind, placebo-controlled Phase 1 trial. Rush is now enrolling patients for a Phase II trial.

Researchers said the Phase I finding is the strongest evidence yet that indicates adult stem cells can differentiate, or turn into heart cells to repair damage. Until now, it has been believed only embryonic stem cells could differentiate into heart or other organ cells, the scientists said.

"The results point to a promising new treatment for heart attack patients that could reduce mortality and lessen the need for heart transplants," said Dr. Gary Schaer, head of the medical center's Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory and the study's principal investigator at Rush.

He said one reason the study results are so promising is the stem cells can be used without tissue typing, do not trigger an immune response and are available for every patient.

The research is to be reported in the Dec. 8 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

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