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    Stem Cells May Rejuvenate Failing Hearts

    Researchers found injecting them into damaged tissue improved organ's ability to pump blood

    continued...

    "The combination of those two can give you a feeling of what is the normal heart tissue and what is the scarred tissue," Mathiasen said.

    Then the researchers ran a needle up the catheter and made 12 to 15 small injections around the area of the scar tissue, he said.

    "They injected around the border zones between the living and the dead heart muscle, trying to extend the amount of living heart muscle and reduce the scarring that is there," Grines explained.

    Stem cell patients experienced an 8.2-milliliter decrease in end systolic volume, which indicates the lowest volume of blood in the heart during the pumping cycle and is a key measure of the heart's ability to pump effectively. The placebo group showed an increase of 6 milliliters in end systolic volume.

    The patients who received stem cells also experienced a reduction in their heart's scar tissue compared to the placebo group, but the amount of reduction did not prove statistically significant, the researchers said.

    Researchers plan a larger clinical trial involving 120 to 180 patients in several European countries, Mathiasen said. There are no U.S. trials under way for this procedure.

    Grines said she looks forward to reviewing safety data from the new trial and future trials, since needle injections can cause an increased incidence of irregular heart rhythm. The tiny scars left by the needle can divert the electrical signals of the heart.

    But if the procedure proves safe, it could help countless heart patients, she said.

    "You need a larger trial to tell for sure whether this is going to be important. But if it is, it could have a major impact on society," Grines said.

    Research presented at medical meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

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