More Research Confirms Adult Stem Cells Repair Heart Damage

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 26, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

More Research Confirms Adult Stem Cells Repair Heart Damage

by Steven Ertelt Editor
April 26, 2004

Pittsburgh, PA ( — New research conducted by scientists in the U.S. and Argentina confirms previous studies showing that adult stem cells are effective in repairing heart damage. Specifically, an injection of adult stem cells into the damaged heart tissue of people with significant heart problems significantly improves their heart function.

The results show that the adult stem cells can promote the growth of heart muscle and blood vessels and may be a useful treatment for those with congestive heart failure, HealthDayNews reports.

Researchers worked on 20 patients who had ejection fractions of less than 35 percent. Ejection fraction is a standard measure of heart function showing much blood the left ventricle pumps out with each successive heartbeat.

If the ejection fraction is 55 percent or higher, a patient is considered in good health.

Ten of the patients in the study has cardiac bypass surgery while the other half had the surgery as well as an injection of adult stem cells. The stem cells came from bone marrow taken from the patients’ hips.

According to HealthDayNews, the patients who had the stem cells injected had an ejection fraction of 29.4 percent while those who did not have the injections had an ejection fraction of 30.7 percent.

But six months after the surgeries, those who received adult stem cell injections saw their ejection fractions improve to 46.1 percent while those who did not have the injections had only a 37.2 percent ejection fraction.

Dr. Robert L. Kormos, medical director of the University of Pittsburgh’s McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, said the "results encourage us to aggressively pursue cellular therapies as an option for congestive heart failure. It will revolutionize our approach, which is largely palliative, to one that is truly regenerative."

The team will move forward with a second study involving 40 patients.

In February, scientists at Duke University concluded similar studies showing that adult stem cells from umbilical cord blood can rebuild damaged heart tissue.

The Duke study showed that adult stem cells enter damaged heart tissue and rebuild it to prevent further damage.

Umbilical cord blood stem cells have long been successful in treating heart, brain and liver defects in children with rare metabolic diseases. However, until the Duke study, researchers weren’t sure whether the cells were actually rebuilding the damaged organs by morphing into the cells needed to rebuild the right kinds of tissues.

"We’ve had convincing clinical evidence that stem cells from umbilical cord blood extended much farther than the blood-forming and immune systems, and that they can differentiate themselves into brain, heart, liver and bone cells," says Joanne Kurtzberg, director of the Pediatric Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplant Program at Duke University.

"But now we have examined heart tissue on a cellular level and proven that donor cells are not only present in heart tissue, but they have become heart muscle cells," she says.

Heart failure, the number one discharge diagnosis in the United States, is presumably responsible for over 46,000 deaths per year, and contributes to the death of another 220,000 individuals.

There are approximately 550,000 new cases diagnosed annually, and half of those patients are likely to succumb within five years, according to the American Heart Association.