Over 5 million Americans are burdened now with an enlarged heart due to prior heart attack, the AHA says.
Right now, according to the researchers, chronic use of medications and/or heart transplant are the only means of reducing the increased risk for death, disability, and hospitalization that accompanies an enlarged heart.
To test the new stem cell approach, the study team focused on eight men with an average age of 57. All had suffered a heart attack as far back as 11 years prior to their treatment.
The researchers removed the bone marrow cells from each patient's hip bone, Hare said, adding that they either used the whole bone marrow or took the stem cells in the bone marrow to the laboratory, where the cells could grow and expand.
"To inject the cells into the heart," he continued, "we used a special catheter that could be placed in the heart chamber in such a way as to allow us to inject stem cells directly into the damaged part of the heart."
The scientists used two types of stem cells -- mononuclear and mesenchymal. Although it was not clear whether one type of stem cell had more of a beneficial impact on heart health than another, overall the approach produced impressive results.
Three months after stem cell injection into each patient's heart, the team observed significant "functional recovery" in the heart contraction capacity of those heart areas that had experienced previous damage.
What's more, by the one-year point after a single stem cell injection, heart size was found to have diminished by an average of 15 to 20 percent. That reduction, they noted, is roughly three times what's achievable with current therapies. The approach also reduced the presenc
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