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Pig Stem Cells Show Promise in Repairing Animals’ Heart Attack Damag

findings are scheduled to be presented Nov. 13 at the American Heart Association’s annual Scientific Sessions in Chicago. They are believed to be the first results in animal studies to show that so-called cardiac stem cell therapy can be successfully applied with minimally invasive methods to circumstances closely resembling those in humans. Scientists say the results build on earlier studies with cardiac stem cells in mice and humans that demonstrated success in regenerating infarcted heart muscle and restoring heart cell function post-infarct.

For the study, cardiac stem cells were extracted by tissue biopsy from eight pigs whose main arterial blood supply was tightened for more than two hours, duplicating the effects and damage caused by heart attack.

Using techniques developed in Marbán’s lab, researchers extracted about a million cardiac stem cells from undamaged heart tissue, growing them without the use of potentially dangerous chemical stimulators.

After three weeks, the stem cells turned into spherical balls of cells that mimicked the electrical properties of heart muscle cells. The so-called cardiospheres yielded on average more than 14 million cells.

Within a month after the initial heart attack, a catheter tube was inserted into an artery in the pig leg for infusing the cardiospheres. Previous research had shown that they would on their own migrate to the damaged zones of the heart. Marbán’s team was able to confirm this because they had labeled the stem cells with a gene that codes for an enzyme producing a blue dye, which could be seen under a microscope.

Months later, when researchers examined the hearts to see if any damaged tissue had been repaired, they found blue spots indicating where the stem cells had taken root.

Closer examination of results revealed that stem cells had matured and grown in the border zones of the damaged area, where researchers suspect both dead and l
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