by Maria Vitale Gallagher
LifeNews.com Staff Writer
November 10, 2004
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — Adult stem cell therapy can be good for the heart, according to a recent study conducted at Johns Hopkins. The study shows that stem cells extracted for a pig’s bone marrow could be used to repair another pig’s damaged heart.
If future animal studies and human clinic trials prove successful, the Johns Hopkins researchers may hold the key to unlocking part of the mystery of heart disease.
Nearly eight million Americans have had at least one heart attack, making them highly susceptible to another, possibly fatal, case of heart failure.
"Current treatments for cardiovascular disease prevent heart attack from occurring and/or alleviate its after-effects, but they do not repair the damaged muscle that results, leaving sizably dead portions of heart tissue that lead to dangerous scars in the heart," said cardiologist Joshua Hare, M.D., professor of medicine at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and its Heart Institute.
Hare is the lead author of the study, which was presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2004 this past week.
"Damage done by a heart attack to heart muscle is really the cause of all the serious complications of the disease: Disturbances of heart rhythm can lead to sudden cardiac death and decreased muscle pumping function can lead to congestive heart failure," added study co-author Alan Heldman, M.D. "Our aim is to find a way to repair the damage done to the heart muscle and prevent these complications."
In the study, seven pigs received adult stem cell therapy and seven did not. Researchers found that the pigs that had been injected with stem cells had a full recovery after only two months.
The seven animals in the control group—those that did not receive therapy—developed congestive heart failure within two months of a heart attack.
The Johns Hopkins team does not know how long the healing effects of adult stem cell therapy will last, but the results appear promising.
The study is just the latest to show the phenomenal impact adult stem cell therapy may have in combating heart disease. Many of these breakthroughs have been underplayed in the mainstream news media, which has been focusing almost exclusively on embryonic stem cell research.
Such research, which involves the killing of live human embryos, has proven to be largely unsuccessful.
"While the bone marrow adult stem cells do not have the same potential to develop into different organ tissues as do embryonic stem cells, the use of adult stem cells in this study shows their tremendous potential in developing effective therapies for heart disease, and avoids the controversy surrounding destruction of embryos to obtain the embryonic variety," Hare said.
Hare added, "Among its many benefits are that adult stem cells are readily available, meaning they can be extracted from the patient, no donor is required, and the cells can be simply reproduced if more are needed. In our animal experiment, the treatment regimen was relatively simple, requiring only injection to the damaged tissue.
" The therapy was extremely effective, allowing for almost complete recovery, with no serious complications, such as immunosuppression, which is a problem in organ transplantation. Now, we need to see how it works in people," Hare explained.
The American Heart Association reports that in 2001 there were 565,000 new heart attacks in the U.S., along with 300,000 cases of recurrent heart attacks. About 185,000 heart attacks proved fatal.