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Two Years On, Stem Cells Still Healing Damaged Hearts
Date:11/7/2012

By E.J. Mundell
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Nov. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Updated two-year results from a small trial using cardiac stem cells to repair damaged hearts suggest the treatment's healing effect persists.

Patients with heart failure caused by prior heart attacks who got the treatment continue to see reductions in cardiac scar tissue, improvements in the heart's pumping ability and even a boost in their quality of life, researchers said.

These improvements seem to be continuing as time goes on, suggesting that stem cell therapy's healing power hasn't diminished.

"Now we need to perform larger and randomized, blinded studies ... to confirm this data," said study lead author Dr. Roberto Bolli, director of the Institute of Molecular Cardiology at the University of Louisville.

His team presented its results Tuesday at the American Heart Association's annual meeting, in Los Angeles.

According to the AHA, more than 6 million Americans suffer from heart failure, a gradual weakening of the heart often caused by damage from a prior heart attack. Despite its prevalence and lethality, virtually no advance has been made over the past few decades in doctors' ability to treat or reverse heart failure.

That's why the advent of stem cell therapy has encouraged researchers. Stem cells have the ability to turn into myriad living cells, and the hope is that once infused into the heart they can help repair it.

This trial is the first human trial to test this theory using the patient's own cardiac stem cells. The cells used in the trial were harvested from 33 heart failure patients who were undergoing bypass surgery. The cells were then coaxed to multiply into the millions in the lab and then transplanted back into 20 of the patients. The remaining 13 patients did not receive a stem cell infusion and are the "control" group for comparison purposes.

Results gathered one year after treatment show
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