Healthcare Tips

Stem cell therapy may help repair the heart

September 27, 2017

According to scientists in the USA, stem cell therapy may one day be able to repair the hearts of people with heart failure. Researchers at Pittsburgh University School of Medicine examined 20 patients who had severe heart failure and were going to have surgery.

They injected stem cells into the parts of their hearts that were damaged. They then compared their hearts to those of people who had undergone surgery without having the stem cells injected into them (they had also suffered from severe heart failure). The patients who had had the stem cells injected had hearts that were able to pump more blood than the others.

According to Professor Robert Kormos, one of the researchers, these results could revolutionise heart treatment. Although previous studies had indicated that there might be a benefit, this is the first study that has actually proved that stem cell therapy can help the failing heart work better.

All the patients in this study had hearts that could not pump blood properly. The scientists measured their ejection fraction. This is a measure of heart performance; you measure how much blood is being pumped out by the left ventricle.

Healthy people's ejection fraction is about 55%. These patients had ejection fraction of under 35%. They all had by-pass surgery performed on them. Some of the patients had stem cells taken from their hip bones and injected into 25-30 sites in the damaged heart muscle. Six months later their ejection fraction rate was 46.1% while those who just had surgery but no stem cell injections averaged 37.2%.

No side effects were reported.

Professor Kormos said "These results encourage us to aggressively pursue cellular therapies as an option for congestive heart failure. It will revolutionise our approach, which is largely palliative, to one that is truly regenerative."

Dr Amid Patel, another member of the team said they will need to carry out further investigation. They want to see that the results happen again, they also want to look at the cellular effects of the therapy. They are carrying out two tests at the moment. One with 40 patients and another tests with people who have inoperable heart failure.

Heart failure is a common problem all over the world. In the UK alone about 650,000 people suffer from heart failure every year. As the number of people suffering from heart failure increases in the world in general these findings are particularly significant.

Current treatments relieve the symptoms. This new stem cell therapy actually repairs the damaged muscle in the heart and has the potential of curing the disease.

Experts say it will still be a long time before these experiments are completed and doctors start using stem cell therapy widely for heart patients.