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Stem Cell Therapy Shrinks Enlarged Hearts
Date:3/17/2011

By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, March 17 (HealthDay News) -- The promise of stem cell therapy may have gotten a little closer to reality, with researchers reporting that they've used the cells to help shrink hearts that were dangerously swollen after heart attacks.

The approach involves taking stem cells from a heart patient's own bone marrow, then injecting them into the patient's damaged heart.

The result: a significant improvement of heart performance within months, and a significant reduction in both scar tissue and heart size within a year after the initial therapy.

However, the study is small -- a phase one clinical trial involving just eight male patients -- and still described as "experimental." But the research team says that if confirmed in larger trials, the approach could be a big advance over current treatments for this type of enlarged heart.

"The results are very encouraging," said study co-author Dr. Joshua M. Hare, a professor of medicine and director of the Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. The therapy has "been under development for about ten years, and finally now we are starting to take a big step forward," he said.

But Hare was also quick to note that much more research and time is needed before the novel treatment could become available to patients. "We can't say whether that'll be in three or seven years down the road. It's hard to speculate precisely. But we're talking sometime this decade," he said.

Hare and his colleagues discussed the findings in the March 17 issue of Circulation Research. The study received funding from the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the University of Miami Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute and BioCardia, which makes a catheter used in the procedure.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), heart enlargement can result from a number of health
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