Stem Cells Show Promise in Heart Failure Treatment

Posted: August 2, 2015 at 7:41 am

A new method for delivering stem cells to damaged heart muscle has shown early promise in treating severe heart failure, researchers report.

In a preliminary study, they found the tactic was safe and feasible for the 48 heart failure patients they treated. And after a year, the patients showed a modest improvement in the heart's pumping ability, on average.

It's not clear yet whether those improvements could be meaningful, said lead researcher Dr. Amit Patel, director of cardiovascular regenerative medicine at the University of Utah.

He said larger clinical trials are underway to see whether the approach could be an option for advanced heart failure.

Other experts stressed the bigger picture: Researchers have long studied stem cells as a potential therapy for heart failure -- with limited success so far.

"There's been a lot of promise, but not much of a clinical benefit yet," said Dr. Lee Goldberg, who specializes in treating heart failure at the University of Pennsylvania.

Researchers are still sorting through complicated questions, including how to best get stem cells to damaged heart muscle, said Goldberg, who was not involved in the new study.

What's "novel" in this research, he said, is the technique Patel's team used to deliver stem cells to the heart. They took stem cells from patients' bone marrow and infused them into the heart through a large vein called the coronary sinus.

Patel agreed that the technique is the advance.

"Most other techniques have infused stem cells through the arteries," Patel explained. One obstacle, he said, is that people with heart failure generally have hardened, narrowed coronary arteries, and the infused stem cells "don't always go to where they should."

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Stem Cells Show Promise in Heart Failure Treatment

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