by Steven Ertelt
November 14, 2006
Baltimore, MD (LifeNews.com) — Scientists at Johns Hopkins University continue to show the promise that adult stem cells have in treating the effects of heart attacks. The successfully grew adult stem cells from healthy heart tissue and used it to repair some of the tissue damage done to organs by heart attacks.
The researchers conducted the experiments on pigs as pigs’ hearts closely resemble those in humans, making them a useful model in such research.
Following up on previous studies, Hopkins cardiologists used a thin tube to extract samples of heart tissue no bigger than a grain of rice within hours of the animals’ heart attacks. They then grew large numbers of cardiac stem cells in the lab from tissue obtained through biopsy, and within a month implanted the cells into the pigs’ hearts.
With help from a blue-dye tracking system, the scientists have shown that within two months the cells had developed into mature heart cells and vessel-forming endothelial cells.
Eduardo Marbán, M.D., Ph.D., senior study author and professor and chief of cardiology at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and its Heart Institute, says that is similar studies show the same success in humans, it would be easy to help numerous patients.
"This is a relatively simple method of stem cell extraction that can be used in any community-based clinic, and if further studies show the same kind of organ repair that we see in pigs, it could be performed on an outpatient basis," he said in a statement LifeNews.com obtained.
"Starting with just a small amount of tissue, we demonstrated that it was possible, very soon after a heart attack, to use the healthy parts of the heart to regenerate some of the damaged parts," he added.
Marbán cautions that no overall improvements in heart function have yet been shown in these studies, which were not designed to establish such changes and used relatively low numbers of infused cells (10 million or less).
"But we have proof of principle, and we are planning to use larger numbers of cells implanted in different sites of the heart to test whether we can restore function as well," he says. "If the answer is yes, we could see the first phase of studies in people in late 2007."
The latest Hopkins findings are scheduled to be presented Nov. 13 at the American Heart Association’s annual Scientific Sessions in Chicago.
They are believed to be the first results in animal studies to show that so-called cardiac stem cell therapy can be successfully applied with minimally invasive methods to circumstances closely resembling those in humans.
Scientists say the results build on earlier studies with cardiac stem cells in mice and humans that demonstrated success in regenerating infarcted heart muscle and restoring heart cell function post-infarct.