Stem cells offer new hope for heart failure patients
Regenerating damaged tissue shown to improve patients' health and quality of life
So far, it's been a very small study - only 16 patients. However, stem cell treatment has proved that damaged heart tissue can be treated and noticeably improved. "If this is confirmed in further studies, it could offer an entirely new option and a potential cure for patients who are now dying from heart failure," Dr. Roberto Bolli, director of cardiology at University of Louisville says.
The study showed that cardiac stem cells have the potential to divide and develop into cardiomyocytes -- the muscle cells that make the heart contract and pump blood.
In addition, some seven patients who underwent magnetic resonance imaging, the amount of dead heart muscle tissue decreased by 24 percent over four months and 30 percent over a year.
Seven control patients who did not receive the stem cell treatment showed no improvement.
"What is really exciting about the use of cardiac stem cells is we think we're attacking the fundamental problem: replacing dead tissue with new cardiac muscle," Bolli says. "Again, if these results are confirmed, this would be a true revolution in medicine; one of the biggest advances in cardiology in my lifetime."
The study was the first in humans to use cardiac stem cells, which were collected from patients' hearts during coronary artery bypass surgery. The cells were then purified and prepared in a six weeks process for infusion back into the damaged tissue.
Other studies have examined the potential of stem cells from patients' bone marrow to reverse the damage caused by heart attacks, with mixed results. Bone marrow stem cells are capable of becoming a variety of cell types, whereas cardiac stem cells are more specialized, and further along to road to becoming heart cells.
"This group has shown that you can prepare cardiac-specific stem cells and these cells are much more potent at cardiac repair than bone marrow cells," Dr. Josh Hare, chief of cardiology and director of the Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute at University of Miami says.
It must be noted that bone marrow stem cells are much easier to extract and prepare.
"From a convenience standpoint, it's obviously much easier to get the bone marrow," Hare says, explaining that bone marrow can be drawn from patients' bone and quickly turned around for reinjection into the heart. "The downside is they're not as effective. Clearly cardiac stem cells work so much better."
The Catholic Church is against embryonic stem cell research because it involves the destruction of human embryos. Pope John Paul II said embryonic stem-cell research is related to abortion, euthanasia and other attacks on innocent life.
© 2011, Catholic Online. Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
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Keywords: Stem cell research, heart failure, tests, tissue regeneration
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