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Stem cell therapy hope for heart failure patients after small clinical trial

15 May 2012

By Helen Brooks

Appeared in BioNews 656

Stem cell therapy may benefit patients with chronic heart disease, according to the results of a small clinical trial carried out by US scientists.

The trial involved 22 patients with progressive heart failure or an enlarged heart and whose current medication was no longer effective. They received either an injection of the stem cell treatment into their heart muscle or a placebo.

The participants were monitored for a year and the clinicians reported no serious side effects among those who received the stem cells compared to the control group.

The patients who received the stem cell injections displayed fewer major heart-related problems and observed improvements in their ability to walk without becoming breathless. These patients were also more likely to show improvements in ejection fraction, which measures how much blood the heart pumps out with each beat.

Dr Timothy Henry, director of research at the Minneapolis Heart Institute, who led the study, said: 'A number of people with heart failure have slowly progressing disease despite medication and/or device therapy. If we could have a therapy for this group that would slow the progression of heart failure, it would be economic and change the disease process tremendously'.

The treatment involves growing a patient's own bone marrow cells in culture for 12 days. This increases the number of immune cells and stem cells called mesenchymal stem cells, which can differentiate into several cell types including heart cells. This enriched cell population is injected directly into the heart muscle. Using a patient's own cells minimises the risk of rejection.

'This study tells us that injecting stem cells into the heart muscle of a patient with chronic heart failure may be beneficial', says Dr Sandeep Jauhar, of the Long Island Jewish Medical Center, New York, who was not involved in the study.

He added that despite available treatments being effective, they are reaching a plateau. 'We do need a new way of treating heart failure if we want more improvement', said Dr Jauhar, who continued to say that it is too early to say whether this new stem cell therapy could fill that role.

'It shows some improvement in pumping parameters of the heart, but that doesn't mean you will live longer', he said.

Although these results are preliminary, the researchers say it provides enough evidence for a larger clinical trial with more participants.

Aastrom (press release) | 07 May 2012
US News Health Day | 10 May 2012
Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions (press release) | 10 May 2012


07 May 2013 - by Siobhan Chan 
Gene therapy will be used to treat heart failure for the first time in the UK, in clinical trials being launched by the British Heart Foundation...
12 November 2012 - by Dr Nicola Davis 
Stem cells obtained from donors have been used in clinical trials to effectively treat damage caused by heart attacks. The trial found that donor stem cells were 'just as safe' as stem cells derived from the person being treated....
12 November 2012 - by Dr Anna Cauldwell 
Eight heart attack patients given injections of stem cells harvested from their own hearts show significant improvement in their heart function two years after treatment...

30 April 2012 - by Helen Brooks 
Scar tissue formed after a heart attack could be repaired without the use of stem cells, according to US scientists...
05 March 2012 - by Cathy Holding 
A major clinical trial to investigate a stem cell treatment for chronic ischemic heart disease (IHD) – a leading cause of death around the world – has begun in the US...
05 December 2011 - by Dr Louisa Petchey 
Research in mice has shown the heart contains its own renewable source of stem cells which can differentiate into a variety of cell types. The research team in Australia hopes that one day the stem cells could be activated so a broken heart can be made to mend itself....
19 September 2011 - by Antony Blackburn-Starza 
A new fund to help pay for stem cell research in Scotland has been launched. The UK Stem Cell Foundation (UKSF) will aim to raise £5 million over three years to support the work of researchers and clinicians in Scotland into treatments and cures for illnesses including diabetes, strokes, multiple sclerosis, blindness and Alzheimer's disease...

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