A new study conducted by University of Florida doctors attempts to treat patients with coronary artery disease by injected stem cells into the heart. The researchers believe that stem cell injections will restore more blood flow to the organ and encourage blood vessel growth, healing the heart.
This experimental treatment is being conducted on volunteers with severe coronary artery disease who have daily chest pains. Volunteers for the study have tried other methods such as medication or surgery procedures to restore blood flow but have not responded. The results of this study could affect almost half a million Americans with severe coronary artery disease.
Coronary artery disease occurs when the heart muscle becomes affected by plaque deposits or clots that prevent blood from reaching the heart. The blockages can initiate small heart attacks that can go undetected but cause damage to the heart that cannot be reversed. Over time, this can cause progressive heart failure or death.
In the study, researchers will use a person’s own stem cells to try to improve the flow of blood to the heart. They hope that the treatment will prevent some of the symptoms of severe coronary artery disease, as well as increase the quality of life for the patient. The study will also measure exercise tolerance and heart function before and after treatment.
“The general idea is that by providing these cells of blood vessel origin, we hope to either generate new blood vessels from the growth of these implanted cells or stimulate the heart to regenerate new blood vessels from the cells that reside in it,” said study investigator Carl J. Pepine, M.D., chief of cardiovascular medicine at UF’s College of Medicine in a press release.
Despite their high hopes for the results of the study, researchers are unsure how this transformation will occur. “It’s not completely clear whether it’s the actual cell itself that would do this or whether it’s just the milieu and the chemical signals that occur from the cells that would result in this,” concluded Pepine in a press release.
Another trial is divided into three patient groups, one focusing on patients with heart attacks within the week preceding the treatment, one on people with heart attacks two or three weeks before treatment, and those patients with severe coronary disease that has not responded to any treatment. In those studies, stem cells removed from the bone marrow will be removed and injected into the heart.
“There’s a lot of enthusiasm in the cardiovascular community about the potential of cell-based therapies for the treatment of cardiovascular diseases,”
said Douglas E. Vaughan, M.D., chief of the division of cardiovascular medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in a press release, “and there is increasing experience around the world in using bone marrow-derived stem cells in patients with cardiovascular disease. There is growing confidence this is going to be a safe form of therapy, but there are continuing questions about how effective it will be and what its impact will be in individual patients.”
“UF researchers test stem cell therapy for heart patients,” Eurekalert. URL:(http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2007-10/uof-urt100407.php)