Stem Cells Heal Heart Attack Scars, More Study Needed

A new study has found that a patient’s own stem cells can heal up to half of heart attack scarring. This is hopeful news for patients hoping to alleviate heart disease symptoms, but the process is not ready to go mainstream.

Medical journal The Lancet published the study, “Intracoronary cardiosphere-derived cells for heart regeneration after myocardial infarction (CADUCEUS): a prospective, randomised phase 1 trial,” on Feb. 14. As the title indicates, the findings are only from the first phase of the trial, which took place at the Cedars Sinai Heart Institute.

Small Trial

The study only included 31 eligible participants, 25 of which were part of per-protocol analysis. Meaning those were the patients that completed the trial and whose findings were included in the final results. Each patient had, on average, 24 percent scarring in the left heart ventrical.

Such small trials are initially done on new medical procedures to ensure patient safety and procedure feasibility.

Prof. Anthony Messur is coordinating a trial involving stem cells and 3,000 heart attack patients–the largest study to date in this matter. “The findings would be very interesting, but obviously they need further clarification and evidence,” Messur told the BBC.

The findings of the study conclude it is ready to go to phase two trial.

The Process

Patients were enrolled into the study two to four weeks after myocardial infarction. Inserting a tube into their necks, doctors were able to extract a tiny portion of heart tissue. The tissue was grown in a laboratory, were the patients’ own stem cells were able to be isolated and grown.

Up to 25 million of the newly grown stem cells were then put back into each patient’s heart. Study finding show that left ventrical scarring went down to 16 percent at six months and to 12 percent a year after the procedure.

No lives were lost at six months or developed cardiac tumors. Four patients and one control had adverse side effects.

Another Study

There has been one other study completed using stem cells on heart patients. Findings were published on Nov. 14, 2011, also in The Lancet. This study, by Dr. Robert Bolli, was also in phase one trials. Preliminary conclusions, based on 16 patients, were that heart damage was able to be reversed, with no dangerous side effects.

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