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Bone Marrow Cells Help Heart Attack Patients

New research shows bone marrow stem cells may help restore damaged muscle caused by a heart attack. Researches reporting at the American Heart //Association’s Scientific Sessions 2003 presented their study, which was a follow-up to a breakthrough trial that took place in 2001. Results from that trial showed a patient treated with stem cells made from his own bone marrow had improved heart function.

In the current study, researchers from Germany examined 40 heart attack patients who were treated with balloon angioplasty and had mesh tube stents implanted to keep their vessels open. Twenty patients were injected with stem cells made from their own bone marrow, and the other 20 patients served as a control group. Stem cells are immature cells that can still develop into specialized types of cells, such as heart muscle and blood vessels.

Results of the study show after three months, patients who were treated with stem cells saw their average area of damage decrease from a 33 percent left ventricle circumference to a 14 percent circumference. The treated group also saw the contraction speed of the heart increase from 1.5 centimeters per second to 3.3 centimeters per second. The fraction of blood pumped out of the heart rose from 55 percent to 65 percent in the stem cell group. Their glucose uptake also increased from 47 percent to 58 percent.

Researchers say these improvements show transplanted stem cells are associated with new heart muscle and blood vessels. Bodo E. Strauer, M.D., from Heinrich Heine University in Germany, says, "These results demonstrate for the first time that transplantation of a person’s own stem cells through direct intracoronary injection increased cardiac function, blood flow and metabolism in the damaged zone."

Dr. Stauer concludes, "If a prospective, randomized, multi-center study confirms these encouraging results, a new therapy for heart attacks could be in reach."

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