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Stem Cells Show Promise in Healing Damaged Hearts
Date:11/14/2011

By Denise Mann
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Nov. 14 (HealthDay News) -- Efforts to use stem cells to help revitalize hearts damaged by heart attack got a boost from three studies presented Monday at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association.

Cardiologists attending the Orlando, Fla.-based conference heard how infusing bone marrow stem cells into the heart soon after a heart attack might improve survival, and how cardiac stem cells might also come to the aid of patients battling heart failure.

Doctors have recently been using bone marrow-sourced stem cells to repair the damage done to cardiac tissue by heart attack. And two new studies presented at the meeting may help define the "window of opportunity" during which this therapy is likely to save lives.

Infusing these cells into the heart several days after a heart attack is safe and provides benefits that last up to five years, one study found. However, waiting 10 to 20 days after a heart attack to inject the cells back into the heart is too long, the second trial concluded.

In the first study, German researchers led by Dr. David Leistner of the University Hospital of Frankfurt found fewer deaths, fewer subsequent heart attacks and fewer procedures needed to open blocked arteries in people who received bone marrow stem cells within a few days of a heart attack. Earlier studies had shown that this experimental treatment improved heart muscle function for up to four months after a heart attack, but the new study, involving 62 patients, showed that these benefits last for up to 5 years.

One expert was pleased with the results.

"This is a big deal," said Dr. Joshua M. Hare, the director of the Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. "There is a lot of controversy in the field about how much heart function actually improves after this treatment," he said. "Many experts argue that a
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