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    Stem Cells May Treat Heart Failure

    Symptoms Improve for Heart Attack and Heart Failure Patients

    Minimally Invasive Procedure continued...

    "Their enlarged hearts decreased in dimension, while in the people on drug therapy, the heart continued to get bigger," he says.

    Dib says one of the most notable aspects of the stem cell treatment is how minimally invasive it is. "The patient is awake during the procedure and can go home within 24 hours," he says.

    And since the stem cells are taken from the patient's own body, there is minimal risk of rejection, Dib says.

    Heart Failure Options Needed

    If the research pans out in larger studies, "the quality of life and survival of heart failure patients will be improved," Dib says. "This will be a milestone in medicine."

    William O'Neill, MD, executive dean for clinical affairs at the Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami and moderator of a news conference on the findings, says that new options are desperately needed for heart failure.

    In the U.S, 2 million people are admitted to the hospital with heart failure each year, and almost 500,000 die.

    "I was surprised and encouraged by these results," O'Neill tells WebMD, though much further study is needed.

    Dibs says he plans to start a larger study after this year.

    Using Stem Cells From Unrelated Donors

    For the second study, Hare and colleagues took muscle stem cells from unrelated donors, not the patients themselves.

    And rather then being injected right into the heart, the stem cells were infused intravenously into 53 people within 10 days of a heart attack. Another 53 heart attack survivors were given saline injections.

    After six months, heart and lung function was significantly better in the people who got the stem cell infusions than in those who got saline shots. "They were also doing better from a clinical point of view," Hare says.

    Hare notes that there was a lot of concern in the medical community that using cells from an unrelated donor would cause a rejection reaction. But people who got stem cells actually had fewer side effects than those who got sham injections, he says.

    An advantage to using cells from donors is that they could potentially be grown in large quantities in the lab and stored and administered like an off-the-shelf drug, he says.

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