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Heart damage improves, reverses after stem cell injections in a preliminary human trial
Date:3/17/2011

Researchers have shown for the first time that stem cells injected into enlarged hearts reduced heart size, reduced scar tissue and improved function to injured heart areas, according to a small trial published in Circulation Research: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Researchers said that while this research is in the early stages, the findings are promising for the more than five million Americans who have enlarged hearts due to damage sustained from heart attacks. These patients can suffer premature death, have major disability and experience frequent hospitalizations. Options for treatment are limited to lifelong medications and major medical interventions, such as heart transplantation, according to Joshua M. Hare, M.D., the study's senior author and professor of medicine and director of the Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami in Miami, Fla.

Using catheters, researchers injected stem cells derived from the patient's own bone marrow into the hearts of eight men (average age 57) with chronically enlarged, low-functioning hearts.

"The injections first improved function in the damaged area of the heart and then led to a reduction in the size of the heart. This was associated with a reduction in scar size. The effects lasted for a year after the injections, which was the full duration of the study," Hare said.

Specifically, researchers found:

  • Heart size decreased an average of 15 percent to 20 percent, which is about three times what is possible with current medical therapies.
  • Scar tissue decreased by an average of 18.3 percent.
  • And there was dramatic improvement in the function, or contraction, of specific heart areas that were damaged.

"This therapy improved even old cardiac injuries," Hare said. "Some of the patients had damage to their hearts from heart attacks as long as 11 years before treatment."

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Contact: Maggie Francis
maggie.francis@heart.org
214-706-1382
American Heart Association
Source:Eurekalert

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