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How to cure a broken heart?

10 March 2003
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 198

American doctors have used blood stem cells to attempt to repair cardiac muscle damage caused by a heart attack. A 16 year old boy, Dimitri Bonnville, was shot in the heart by a nail gun in early February. Because of the swelling from the injury, he suffered a heart attack two weeks later, which severely restricted his ability to pump blood.

Doctors at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan, had been planning to begin clinical trials using stem cells. The team thought that Dimitri was a suitable candidate because his heart was in such a serious condition, and his chances for improvement were seen as slim. Dr William O'Neill, one of the team involved, said 'this treatment was Dimitri's only option, aside from a heart transplant. We hope that in the next few months this experimental procedure will help heal his heart and make it possible for Dimitri to lead as normal a life as possible'.

On 21 February, stem cells were harvested from the patient's own blood and injected into one of the arteries that supplies the heart. Before the operation, the function of the heart had been deteriorating, but just a few days after the procedure there were some signs of improved function. The doctors say that they do not yet have proof that the injected stem cells caused the heart to start to repair itself - they are waiting to see the results of a scan. Before the operation, 'no viable heart muscle' was found in the affected area but a new scan of the same area will be taken in three months time, when it is hoped that new cardiac muscle will have developed.

The experimental treatment follows recent news that hundreds of European heart attack patients are to take part in a trial using stem cell treatments to attempt to restore cardiac function. Professor John Martin, of University College, London, said that the hope was that bone marrow stem cells could repair the damage caused by heart attacks, which often leads to progressive heart failure. 'We know stem cells have the potential to do lots of things, including possibly turning into new heart muscle or blood vessel cells', he said, adding 'my hunch is that they do both'. The trial, involving more than 30 cardiac centres in Britain, France, Germany and other European countries, will begin later this spring.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Doctors use bone marrow stem cells to repair a heart
The New York Times |  7 March 2003
Doctors use stem cells in heart repair
Yahoo Daily News |  6 March 2003
Heart attack victims to get stem cell trial
Yahoo Daily News |  24 February 2003
Teen 1st in world to get experimental stem cell heart treatment
Bioresearch Online |  5 March 2003
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