Scientists are a step closer to harnessing a technique that “literally mends broken hearts”, according to the Daily Express. The newspaper says that the simple procedure “uses patients’ own cells to regrow muscle damaged by a heart attack”.
This story is based on an early-stage trial that examined the safety of using stem cells to heal the scars and cardiac tissue damage experienced after a heart attack. In the study researchers recruited patients who had recently had a heart attack and took a sample of healthy tissue from their hearts. They then used the tissue to grow stem cells that could turn into any type of heart cell and injected them directly into the hearts of 17 patients. Next they assessed the safety of the treatment over 12 months and compared the results from these patients with those from eight patients who received standard care. The researchers determined that the approach was safe. They speculated that there may be some interesting clinical results, such as a reduction in scar tissue and an increase in new heart tissue. However, as this was a trial of the technique’s safety, the effectiveness of the process will need to be examined in further studies.
This small, early-stage study identified a potential application of stem cells for the treatment of heart attacks, but a great deal of additional research is required to see whether or not this therapy will literally mend broken hearts.
The study was carried out by researchers from Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute, the EMMES Corporation and The Johns Hopkins University in the US. It was funded by the US National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, and the Cedars-Sinai Board of Governors Heart Stem Cell Center.