Cell Infusion Helps Heal Damaged Hearts
Experiemental Treatment Improves Recovery After Heart Attack
Oct. 13, 2003 -- Infusing a person's own cells into a heart
that's been damaged by heart attack may help speed up the healing process and
prevent future complications.
A new study shows an experimental new heart attack treatment
that uses premature cells extracted from a person's blood or derived from bone
marrow and injected back into a heart artery several days after a heart attack
helps damaged hearts grow stronger.
The process involves using a particular type of cell called
progenitor cells that are derived from human stem cells, which have the ability
to develop into any type of cell in the body. Progenitor cells are already on
their way to becoming a specific type of cell.
In a small study of 26 patients who had suffered a heart
attack, German researchers found that the cell treatment appeared to rescue
damaged heart tissue.
"Our findings suggest that progenitor-cell infusion may, in
part, restore heart function even after damage to the heart muscle has already
occurred," says researcher Stephanie Dimmeler, PhD, of the University of
Frankfurt, in a news release.
The results appear in the Oct. 14 online edition of
Circulation:Journal of the American Heart Association.
Treatment Heals Damaged Hearts
In the study, researchers evaluated the effects of the
treatment on 26 heart attack patients who were randomly assigned to receive a
progenitor cell infusion using cells from either their own blood or bone
The patients also received standard post-heart attack
treatment, such as anti-clotting drugs, angioplasty, and stenting -- a meshed
network inserted into a heart artery to prop up clogged arteries.
Researchers then used a catheter to deliver the cell infusion
to the stented part of the artery an average of about five days after the heart
MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) performed a few days after the
infusion and four months later assessed the damage to the heart.
Researchers found significant improvement in the heart's
overall pumping ability and fewer signs of damage in the area affected by the
heart attack regardless of which type of progenitor cell was used.
"The infusion of progenitor cells was associated with a
reduction in the size of muscle damage, a significant improvement in pumping
function, and less enlargement of the heart within four months after a heart
attack," says researcher Andreas M. Zeiher, MD, the University of Frankfurt
in Germany, in a news release.
Heart failure -- the inability of the heart to pump enough
blood and oxygen to meet the body's needs -- is a common consequence of heart
attack, and more than 50,000 Americans die of the debilitating condition each
If further studies confirm these results, researchers say this
experimental treatment may one day be used to reduce the damage caused by heart