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Heart Disease Health Center

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Stem Cell Treatment May Relieve Angina

Study Shows Chest Pain From Heart Disease Can Be Treated With Stem Cell Therapy

Chest Pain Relief continued...

Among the major findings:

  • Six months after the procedure, patients treated with the stem cells had an average of seven attacks of angina a week, compared to close to 11 in the placebo group.
  • At 12 months, the low-dose stem cell patients were having around six chest pain episodes a week, compared to 11 in the placebo-treated patients.
  • Exercise tolerance test scores were also better in the stem-cell-treated patients. The low-dose stem cell patients had improvements of 139 seconds, compared to 69 seconds in the placebo-treated patients.
  • Patients in both active treatment portions of the study used less nitroglycerin to treat angina attacks than patients in the placebo group, but the difference was small.

About one in three patients had elevations of a cardiac enzyme that is associated with heart attacks. While the elevations did not appear to be clinically significant, Losordo says the researchers will continue to closely monitor cardiac enzymes in patients who receive the treatment.

Improvements in Quality of Life

Losordo says the improvements in the stem-cell-treated patients were life altering for many patients.

"To put it in human terms, patients who might have been able to sit and watch TV without symptoms could now walk at a normal pace without chest pain, and someone who could walk at a slow pace might be able to ride a bike," he says.

The study was funded by Illinois-based medical device manufacturer Baxter Healthcare, which hopes to market the machine that collects the stem cells.

A phase III study expected to involve around 50 medical centers in the U.S. is in the planning stages.

"There is an emerging notion that our bodies -- even the bodies of patients with significant disease -- contain this natural biology that can heal," Losordo says. "We are just beginning to understand and exploit this pre-installed mechanism for self-repair."

Tomaselli says the study shows that the approach is both safe and feasible in patients with significant coronary disease.

"The results are pretty undeniable," he says. "The [stem cell] treated patients had improvements in angina frequency and improvements in exertion times. The next step is to prove the treatment is clinically useful."

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