Stem-Cell Trial Failed to Treat Heart Failure

Posted: March 24, 2012 at 6:03 pm

SATURDAY, March 24 (HealthDay News) -- An innovative approach using patients' own bone marrow cells to treat chronic heart failure came up short in terms of effectiveness, researchers report.

Use of stem cell therapy to repair the slow, steady damage done to heart muscle and improve heart function is safe, but has not been shown to improve most measures of heart function, the study authors said.

"For the measures we paid most attention to, we saw no effect, there is no question about that," said researcher Dr. Lemuel Moye, a professor of biostatistics at the University of Texas School of Public Health in Houston.

"Ultimately, this is going to pay off handsomely for individuals and for public health in general, but it's going to take years of work," Moye said. "We are the vanguard looking for new promising lines of research."

While the hoped-for results didn't materialize, there appeared to be a small improvement in some patients, he said. "When we looked at another commonly used measure of heart function called ejection fraction, or the strength of the heart's pumping, that's where all the action was," Moye noted.

It's hard to know which measures of heart function to look at, Moye explained. "We have had some difficulty with that," he said.

Future research will look at other measures of heart function, pay more attention to the characteristics of the cells that are injected and determine which cells are best, he added.

Cardiac cells and other types of specially prepared cells are available now that were not accessible when this study started in 2009, Moye pointed out.

The results of the trial, which was sponsored by the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, were to be presented Saturday at the American College of Cardiology's annual meeting in Chicago. The report was also published online March 24 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

For the study, Moye and colleagues worked with 92 patients, average age 63 and mostly male, who had heart failure with and without chest pain. They were randomly assigned to receive either an injection of 100 million bone marrow cells from their own bone marrow, or an inactive placebo. Patients in both groups also received aggressive medical therapy.

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Stem-Cell Trial Failed to Treat Heart Failure

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