Page URL:

Heartening news for stem cell treatments

29 April 2004
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 256

Patients with heart failure could one day be treated with injections of their own stem cells, according to new US trials that provide the 'first convincing evidence' that such an approach might work. Previous studies have produced conflicting results, and some researchers have questioned whether stem cell therapies for failing hearts are ready for human trials. But the new findings, presented at the American Association for Thoracic Surgery meeting in Toronto last week, show that injections of bone marrow stem cells can increase the strength of damaged heart muscle.

There is some evidence that adult stem cells present in bone marrow can produce other body tissues, as well as different types of blood cells. But it is not known exactly how this happens - it could be that the cells are fusing with existing cells, rather than transforming into them. Several preliminary human trials suggest that blood stem cells from bone marrow can successfully repair heart attack damage, while others have highlighted potential problems with this approach.

In the latest trial, researchers based at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine studied 20 South American patients undergoing bypass surgery for heart failure. Half the participants received up to 30 injections of their own bone marrow stem cells (taken from the hip bones), directly into the heart. The team found that the hearts of the treated patients were subsequently able to pump more blood than those who just had the surgery. It is thought that the stem cell therapy worked by helping the damaged heart muscle to regrow, and also by triggering the formation of new blood vessels.

The treated patients had higher levels of a key protein involved in cell communication, called connexin 43, which is normally reduced in people with heart failure. Team member Amit Patel said: 'We do not know if this increase was due to the growth of new heart muscle cells resulting from the stem cell injections or whether the stem cells coaxed existing cells to come out of hibernation'. None of the patients have had any side effects, in contrast to those taking part in a South Korean trial reported earlier this year. The researchers now plan to carry out further trials, to replicate their findings and to optimise the treatment. Belinda Linden, of the British Heart Foundation, welcomed the study, but stressed that 'it must be remembered that this treatment is experimental'.

Bone marrow stem cells help mend broken hearts
Nature |  27 April 2004
First randomized trial of adult stem cell injections in heart failure patients shows benefit
ScienceDaily |  26 April 2004
Hearts of dying patients repaired with injection of their own cells
The Sunday Times |  25 April 2004
Stem cell therapy holds out hope to heart patients
The Guardian |  26 April 2004
13 June 2011 - by Dr Sophie Pryor 
A naturally occurring protein can activate stem cells in mouse hearts, producing new muscle cells to replace the tissue damaged by a heart attack, UK scientists have found...
29 January 2007 - by Heidi Nicholl 
New research has been published confirming that 'multipotent' adult progenitor cells' (MAPCs), a type of adult stem cell, can repair and restore damaged blood systems in mice. Catherine Verfaillie and colleagues at the University of Minnesota first described these novel stem cells in 2002, but other teams...
25 September 2006 - by Dr Jess Buxton 
Three new studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) reveal contradictory results following the use of bone marrow-derived stem cells to treat heart attack patients. Two of reports found that injections of a patient's own bone marrow cells can improve heart function after...
2 May 2006 - by BioNews 
A team of US scientists has managed to successfully treat mice with symptoms of a genetic kidney disease, using bone marrow stem cells. The researchers, based at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, transplanted stem cells into animals affected by Alport syndrome, and saw a significant improvement in their condition...
3 March 2006 - by BioNews 
One form of stem cell therapy for heart attack patients appears to have little effect, German researchers report. The team, based at the German Heart Centre in Munich, carried out the largest trial designed to test the therapy to date. The results, published in the Journal of the American Medical...
25 March 2004 - by BioNews 
Two new studies have cast further doubt on the ability of blood stem cells to turn into heart cells, even though several clinical trials based on this promising new treatment are currently underway. Researchers at Stanford University, California, and the University of Washington in Seattle have failed to duplicate the...
8 March 2004 - by BioNews 
The use of blood stem cells to treat heart attack patients shows promise, but can lead to complications, South Korean researchers say. A new study published in the Lancet shows that although the experimental treatment can help repair damaged heart tissue, it also causes side effects in many patients. As...
23 February 2004 - by BioNews 
American researchers have used cord blood cells to successfully treat several genetic diseases, and say they now have evidence that backs up their approach. The scientists, from Duke University Medical Centre, North Carolina, told a conference last week that they have been using stem cells taken from umbilical cord blood...
28 April 2003 - by BioNews 
Scientists have discovered that injections of (adult) stem cells taken from patient's own bone marrow can be used to help them recover from heart failure. The technique was tested on 21 people with so-called 'end stage' heart failure, and it was found that the health of 13 of those was...
to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions

Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.