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U.S. Doctors Treat Heart Attack With Man's Own Stem Cells

Pioneering procedure aims to repair damaged cardiac muscle, surgeons say

TUESDAY, June 30 (HealthDay News) -- American physicians say they've performed the first procedure in which a patient received injections of his own heart stem cells to repair heart attack damage.

The 39-year-old man is the first of 16 people who will undergo the procedure as part of a phase 1 clinical trial being conducted at Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles. Another eight people will act as controls.

All of the participants have damage and scarring from heart attacks that occurred within four weeks before their enrollment in the study. They will be monitored for six months after the procedure, and the results are to be released in late 2010.

Preparing for the procedure, doctors first use medical imaging to pinpoint the location and severity of the scars caused by heart attack. The patients then undergo a minimally-invasive biopsy to remove a small piece of heart tissue. The tissue is sent to a specialized lab, where heart stem cells are cultured using methods developed by the researchers. It takes about four weeks for the cells to multiply to the numbers (about 10 to 25 million) needed for treatment. A catheter is used to place the stem cells into the patient's coronary arteries.

"This procedure signals a new and exciting era in the understanding and treatment of heart disease," study leader Dr. Eduardo Marban, director of the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute, said in a news release from the institute. "Five years ago we didn't even know the heart had its own distinct type of stem cells. Now we are exploring how to harness such stem cells to help patients heal their own damaged hearts."

"If successful, we hope the procedure could be widely available in a few years and could be more broadly applied to cardiac patients," said Marban, who developed the technique.

The first patient was Kenneth Milles, a controller for a small construction company in California's San Fernando Valley. He had a major heart attack May 10 caused by a 99 percent blockage in a major artery of the heart. The heart attack left 21 percent of Milles's heart muscle scarred. He had a biopsy May 24 and just underwent the procedure.

More information

The American Heart Association has more about heart attack.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute, news release, June 30, 2009

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