Page URL:

First heart attack patients in UK trial of stem cell therapy

28 April 2008
Appeared in BioNews 455

Two men were the first subjects of a groundbreaking clinical research trial to establish the efficacy of treating patients with stem cells from their own bone marrow hours after a heart attack. The randomised controlled trial, the first to be supported by the UK Stem Cell Foundation, was designed by Dr Anthony Mathur, senior lecturer and consultant cardiologist, and Professor John Martin, British Heart Foundation chair in cardiovascular sciences; at Barts and the London NHS Trust and University College London respectively.

The men were treated at the London Chest Hospital (Barts and the London NHS Trust) and the Heart Hospital, (UCLH Trust), where they underwent angioplasty within five hours of having a heart attack. This technique opens the blocked coronary arteries that supply the heart muscle with blood using a tiny balloon inserted through a catheter in an artery in the groin. Professor Martin and Dr Mathur added to the treatment by injecting either bone marrow stem cells or a placebo into the heart via the angioplasty route.

'Taking heart attack patients to centres where their blocked coronary artery can be opened immediately has lead to significant increases in survival and decreases in the damage to heart muscle', said Professor Martin. 'Previous studies in the heart have shown that stem cell delivery to the heart is safe. We will show whether it works in acute heart attack. Our study combines the two new ways of treating heart attack victims for the first time', he continued.

Heart attacks damage the heart muscle, but research has shown that stem cells can promote the development of new muscle tissue. Previous studies using bone marrow stem cells following heart attacks were inconclusive, but in the new trial the treatment was given weeks to years after the damage had occurred, not hours.

Stem cells are undeveloped precursors that can form a wide range of tissues. Those present in adult bone marrow are mainly blood and blood-vessel precursors that may be 'harvested' using a needle. Other sources for stem cells are human embryos and umbilical cord blood. By using their patients' own stem cells the researchers ensured that there was no risk of immune rejection.

Mr Robin Marston, one of the two men to receive the treatment, said he was happy to participate in the trial because 'not only would I help myself but other people too'. He added, 'I feel practically 100 per cent now. I had a tiny bit of pain last night, but nothing since then and I'm feeling fine'.

Although it is too early to draw conclusions from the trial, in which patients may receive a placebo or stem cell injection, the results will indicate whether bone marrow stem cell autografts, as they are known, can aid recovery following a heart attack.

Coronary victim '100%' after stem cell trial
The Herald |  28 April 2008
Stem cell first for heart attack victims
The Daily Telegraph |  23 April 2008
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...
12 January 2009 - by Dr Rebecca Robey 
Scientists at Imperial College, London, have found a way to boost the body's production of certain types of adult stem cells that are involved in repairing damaged tissues. The technique, described in the journal Cell Stem Cell, may eventually lead to therapies that enhance self-healing of broken...
26 November 2007 - by Ailsa Stevens 
Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have had some success at transplanting adult stem cells into mice to create a new immune system, according to a study published in the journal Science last week. Although it may be many years before the research can be...
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...
4 February 2005 - by BioNews 
A new type of stem cell isolated from human bone marrow could have all the medical potential of embryonic stem (ES) cells, US researchers say. However, not all scientists are convinced of that the cells are as versatile as they appear to be, according to a report in the Washington...
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.