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Heart Disease Health Center

Cell Infusion Helps Heal Damaged Hearts

Experiemental Treatment Improves Recovery After Heart Attack
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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 marrow.

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 attack.

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.

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