Researchers Will Use Adult Stem Cells to Treat Heart Attacks

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 26, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Researchers Will Use Adult Stem Cells to Treat Heart Attacks Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 26, 2005

Baltimore, MD ( — Adult stem cells that were found to be widely successful in treating heart attack damage in animals will be used on humans in a new study that could show further promise for the alternative to embryonic stem cell research.

Doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital studied 14 pigs that had heart attacks. Seven were given an adult stem cell therapy and the rest were not. Those that received the adult stem cell injections in their hearts found that their heart muscle contraction was restored to levels that existed before the heart attacks.

Researchers hope to replicate that success in humans.

Dr. Joshua M. Hare says two patients have already enrolled and the university hospital will sign up 48 for the clinical trial.

"Anytime something new comes along there is a sense of excitement and that’s the feeling that we have," he told the Associated Press. "And we obviously hope it will be borne out by the results."

Johns Hopkins researchers are using mesenchymal adult stem cells taken from bone marrow that can yield a variety of stem cell types. The same stem cells used int he pigs found that as much as 50 yo 75 percent of heart damage they suffered was repaired.

Those results are reported in today’s issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

This isn’t the first study that is showing how adult stem cells can help repair heart damage.

A University of South Florida research team injected human umbilical cord blood stem cells into the hearts of rats an hour after a heart attack. The researchers found that the stem cells greatly reduced the size of damage, restoring the heart’s pumping function to near normal. In addition, scar tissue was minimized.

"Cord blood stem cells may be more amenable to repairing hearts," said study co-author Paul Sanberg in a published report in January. "In addition, cord blood stem cells are readily accessible, easy to use, and, like adult stem cells, are not as controversial as embryonic stem cells."

The researchers believe the stem cells may release nourishing substances that prompt primitive cells in the heart to form new blood vessels and muscle.