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Study Hints at Stem Cells From Belly Fat as Treatment for Heart Attack
Date:11/16/2010

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Nov. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Stem cells taken from the belly fat of 10 heart attack patients managed to improve several measures of heart function, Dutch researchers report.

This is the first time this type of therapy has been used in humans, said the scientists, who presented their findings Tuesday at the American Heart Association's annual meeting in Chicago.

But the improvements, though relatively dramatic in this small group of patients, were not statistically significant, probably due to the limited number of participants in the study. And another expert urged caution when interpreting the results.

"The key issue is whether a treatment makes us live longer or feel better," said Dr. Jeffrey S. Borer, chair of the department of medicine and of cardiovascular medicine at the State University of New York (SUNY) Downstate Medical Center in New York City.

This study only looked at "surrogates," meaning measures of heart function that might predict better future health in the patient, he said.

"This cannot be interpreted as if they directly represent positive clinical outcomes," Borer said. "These certainly are promising stem cell data, but there's a great deal more to do before it is possible to know whether this is a viable therapy."

Another caveat: All the patients in this trial were white Europeans. The study authors believe the results could be extrapolated to much of the U.S. population, but not necessarily to people who aren't white.

Fat tissue yields many more stem cells than bone marrow (which has been studied before) and is much easier to access.

In bone marrow, 40 cubic centimeters (cc) typically yield about 25,000 stem cells, which is "not nearly enough to treat people with," said study author Dr. Eric Duckers, head of the Molecular Cardiology Laboratory at Thoraxcenter, Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam. To ge
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