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Stem Cells May Offer New Way to Treat Blocked Arteries
Date:5/19/2009

Injections into heart restore blood flow in small study

TUESDAY, May 19 (HealthDay News) -- Injecting bone marrow cells into the heart's muscular wall restored blood flow to hearts with blocked arteries for which conventional treatments had proven ineffective, Dutch physicians have reported.

"I think this is very good news for patients who are at the end of the line and have no options left," said Dr. Douwe E. Atsma, an interventional cardiologist at Leiden University Medical Center and an author of the study, which appears in the May 20 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The 50 people in the study, 43 of them men, were experiencing angina, or severe chest pain, because of blockages in their heart arteries. All had undergone several artery-opening procedures, such as angioplasty or bypass surgery, to restore blood flow, but such measures would no longer help them, Atsma said.

Half of the participants received injections of cells taken from their own bone marrow, and the others received inactive cell injections. After three months, the responses were varied, with some participants reporting complete relief and others with partial benefits.

"The most important thing is that the amount of ischemia [artery blockage] was halved" in those given the marrow cells, Atsma said. "The amount of tissue with ischemia was reduced, heart function improved significantly in a small way and their grades of quality of life were higher."

Two earlier and smaller trials of bone marrow cell therapy for heart disease had produced conflicting results, Atsma said. "We are the largest trial to date and the first to demonstrate a decrease in ischemia," he said.

The results were so good, Atsma said, that the participants who had gotten the dummy injections have since been given bone marrow cell therapy, and "we now consider it an option for patients in the same condition," he said.


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