By contrast, 100 cc's of fat tissue yield millions of stem cells, plenty to work with. A hundred cc's is about the size of a coffee cup -- a European coffee cup, not the mega-size of American coffee containers, Duckers emphasized.
"With that many cells, you can isolate them and give them to the patient right away as they come into the hospital," he explained.
All patients in this double-blind, placebo-controlled study (11 men and three women) arrived at the hospital having suffered a severe heart attack. All then underwent cardiac catheterization to assess blood flow, followed by percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), more commonly known as angioplasty, to restore blood flow.
Within 24 hours of the heart attack, doctors performed liposuction to remove fat tissue, isolated 20 million stem cells and gave them back to the patients through a catheter. The infusion took no more than 10 minutes. Ten patients received stem cells and four received a placebo infusion.
"It was done very, very quickly, all in the same day," Duckers said.
Six months after the procedure, stem cell patients had better blood flow (more than triple the rate compared to patients getting a placebo), a 5.7 percent increase in heart pumping ability, and a 50 percent reduction in scarring of heart muscle (from 31.6 percent right after the heart attack to 15.4 percent). Placebo patients saw no decrease in scarring.
"In theory," Borer said, "the use of stem cells to improve myocardial perfusion [blood flow] and cardiac performance is very promising... but to the present time, although many approaches to stem cell use have been tested, there really has not yet been evidence of a clinically useful important result. That doesn't mean that stem cell research isn't an important lead to follow."
The Dutch research team is now embarking
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