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Bone marrow stem cells may heal hearts even years after heart attacks

Left ventricular function and exercise capacity increased, while the area of heart muscle damage shrank, in 18 patients given infusions of their own bone marrow stem cells up to eight years after a heart attack, according to a new study in the Nov. 1, 2005, issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

"This new therapy is able to treat until now irreversible heart complaints and function disturbances in patients with chronic coronary artery disease after myocardial infarction, even many years after heart attack. Therefore there is hope for this large amount of patients with previous myocardial infarction and non-treatable complaints," said Bodo E. Strauer, M.D. from the Heinrich-Heine-University in D�sseldorf, Germany.

If further trials produce similar results, cardiac regeneration using stem cells could help to not only reverse some heart attack damage, reduce symptoms and improve the daily functioning of patients; it might also reduce the risk of heart failure, Dr. Strauer said.

Current heart attack interventions attempt to restore blood flow to the heart muscle as soon as possible, in order to limit the amount of permanent scarring. However, neither clotbusting drugs nor angioplasty can restore heart tissue that has already been damaged. Earlier studies demonstrated healing of heart muscle and improved heart function following injections of stem cells directly into the heart muscle or infusions of stem cells into key heart arteries soon after a heart attack.

This study is the first to report the results of stem cell infusions into the arteries of patients many months or years after a heart attack. The researchers harvested bone marrow from the hip bones of the patients, so there was no threat of transplant rejection. After processing, stem cells from the marrow were infused through a catheter into the coronary artery where the patient's heart attack occurred.

"The main results were at least threefold: an impro
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Source:American College of Cardiology


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