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Heart Stem Cells Move Closer to Human Treatments
Date:2/24/2010

'Patch' for damaged heart is just one of several promising developments

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 24 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers are moving ahead -- although sometimes ploddingly -- toward the goal of using stem cell therapies to rescue people with cardiovascular disease, the leading killer of men and women in the United States.

Although much of the gains thus far have been in basic science, stem cells do seem close to actually being able to help actual humans.

"We have seen consistent but modest effects of stem cells in improving heart function and reverse remodeling of heart," said Dr. Gordon Tomaselli, a spokesman for the American Heart Association and an associate professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.

"I think there's great hope," added Dr. Darwin J. Prockop, director of the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Scott & White in Temple.

Several studies presented last November at the annual scientific sessions of the American Heart Association in Orlando serve as examples.

In one study, out of Germany, 35 patients who received bone-marrow stem cell transplantation during coronary artery bypass surgery achieved "excellent long-term safety and survival."

Ten patients who received similar transplantations after repair of mitral valves also fared well, with improvements in the heart's pumping capacity.

Slovenian investigators had similar success, with improvements seen in patients with advanced heart failure who received bone-marrow derived stem cells.

There were also advances in gene therapy reported, with Singaporean researchers using nanotechnology to deliver genetically modified cells to help heal heart attack damage in rabbits.

The stem cell promise hinges on the ability to produce unlimited supplies of human cardiac cells, experts say.


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