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Stem Cells Repair Heart in First-Ever Study

Heart Failure After Heart Attack Treated With Patients' Own Stem Cells
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Heart Stem Cells Repair Heart Attack Damage continued...

The study was designed to show whether the technique was safe. It was: No harmful effects have been seen. But to the researchers' surprise, the relatively small number of cells infused into patients had a major effect.

Of the 14 patients analyzed so far, heart function improved dramatically. And in the eight patients seen one year after treatment, improvement appears to have continued. Moreover, the scars on patients hearts -- areas of dead tissue killed during their heart attacks -- are healing.

And patients aren't just doing better on measures of heart function. Like Michael Jones, they report vastly improved quality of life and ability to perform daily tasks.

"Now this is an open-label trial, so patients know they are treated. This means we have to take what they say with a grain of salt," Loughran says. "But we see these patients not only are feeling better but doing more."

The only downside of this early success is that the ongoing study already has enrolled all 20 of the patients who will be treated. The experimental treatment simply will not be available to other patients in the near future. A larger, phase II study is planned.

"All the patients that call in to us, and there are quite a few interested, we encourage them to maintain close contact with their doctors," Loughran says. "Lifestyle changes and medical management are the most important things for them right now. We will be working very hard to get new trials under way."

The findings were reported at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions meeting in Orlando, Fla., and in the Nov. 14 online edition of The Lancet.

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