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UK trial to test stem cell heart treatment

13 October 2005
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 330

Doctors based at Barts and the London NHS Trust have launched a trial to test if heart damage can be effectively treated using stem cell taken from a patient's own bone marrow. The study will involve 700 patients, and will look at three different types of heart damage. The trial is funded by a new charity, the Heart Cells Foundation, set up by a man who underwent successful stem cell treatment for his heart condition in Germany.

Previous research suggests that injections of stem cells derived from bone marrow can trigger the growth of new heart muscle, although scientists do not clearly understand how this happens. Last year, a German trial involving 60 patients showed that stem cells taken from the bone marrow increase the efficiency of hearts that have been damaged by heart attacks. The new trial will include 300 patients whose hearts are failing because of heart disease or a previous heart attack, as well as 200 people who have only just recently had a heart attack. A further 200 patients affected by dilated cardiomyopathy - a heart muscle disorder - will take part in the study.

Some of the participants will have stem cells extracted from their hip, and injected into either their coronary artery, or directly into their heart. Others will receive injections of growth factors, with the aim of triggering the release of stem cells into the bloodstream, cutting out the need for an operation. 'This is one of the biggest and most comprehensive trials of its kind in the world', said study leader Anthony Mauer, adding 'our studies will tell us if adult stem cells in bone marrow can repair damaged hearts and if so how these cells should be administered to patients'.

Around 2.7 million people living in the UK are affected by heart disease. Mauer said that if the treatment worked, it could 'revolutionise' the treatment of heart disease, and could transform the lives of millions of people around the world. Peter Weissberg, of the British Heart Foundation, agreed, but cautioned that much work was needed to determine whether the therapy was safe as well as effective.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Stem cell heart cure to be tested
BBC News Online |  11 October 2005
Stem cell heart project launched
The Daily Mail |  12 October 2005
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