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Circulatory Device -- A Bridge To Recovery For Heart Failure?

DALLAS, June 16 -- The dying heart cells of individuals with heart failure were brought back to life with the help of a mechanical circulation device, report researchers in today's Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

"These findings represent the first report of improved function in human heart cells, called myocytes, with any therapy," says the study's lead author Kenneth B. Margulies, M.D., associate professor of medicine and physiology at Temple University Cardiac Transplant Center, in Philadelphia, About 4.9 million Americans suffer from heart failure in which the heart pumps less blood than needed by the body. The result is difficult breathing and fluid retention causing swollen tissues. Heart failure is often progressive with worsening symptoms and gradual deterioration of heart function. Current therapies for heart failure include drugs -- which reduce the heart's workload to slow the progression of the disease -- and heart transplantation. However, heart cells can not regenerate and drugs do little to help injured heart cells recover pumping ability.

For patients with advanced heart failure who do not respond to medications, heart transplantation can be lifesaving. Due to relatively long waiting times for heart transplantation, some people awaiting a transplant can be kept alive only with a mechanical left ventricular assist device (LVAD) which takes over most of the pumping for the failing heart.

The researchers found that LVAD support reduced the workload of the failing left side of the heart (the ventricle) to such an extent that some heart muscle cells recovered their ability to contract and relax.

"Our findings demonstrate that LVAD supports the heart even in the most severely failing hearts and may promote improvement in heart function," says Margulies. "These results clearly demonstrate that failing myocytes can regain some degree of their previously normal function and are not irreversibly damaged." LVAD su
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Contact: Carole Bullock
caroleb@amhrt.org
214-706-1279
American Heart Association
15-Jun-1998


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