Stem Cells May Treat Heart Failure
Symptoms Improve for Heart Attack and Heart Failure Patients
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
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
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.
Hare says that contrary to what the researchers had thought when they
started the work, the stem cells do not turn into heart muscle cells.
"Rather, the heart is capable of healing itself," he says. "The
stem cells somehow stimulate in a multiprong fashion those processes
compromised in a heart attack and improve blood flow to damaged areas."