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Scientists repair damage from heart attack

Using adult bone marrow stem cells in mice

BETHESDA, MD - Surprising new research shows it is possible to rebuild heart-attack-damaged hearts with adult stem cells from bone marrow. Scientists at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and New York Medical College, Valhalla, NY, demonstrated for the first time that adult stem cells isolated from mouse bone marrow could become functioning heart muscle cells when injected into a damaged mouse heart. More important for future clinical application in humans, the new cells at least partially restore the heart's ability to pump blood.

The research team, led by Donald Orlic, Ph.D., a staff scientist in the genetics and molecular biology branch of the Division of Intramural Research at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), and Piero Anversa, M.D., professor of medicine and director of the Cardiovascular Research Institute at New York Medical College, reported their results in the April 4, 2001, issue of NATURE.

"This study offers hope that we might one day be able to actually reverse the damage caused by a heart attack," says NHGRI Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. "The apparent ability of stem cells in the bone marrow of adult animals to rebuild the heart reveals nature's remarkably flexible response to disease."

"Our results indicate the great potential of adult stem cells to differentiate into other cell types and repair a damaged organ, a property commonly attributed to embryonic stem cells," Anversa says. "This may allow us to utilize a patient's own stem cells as a new therapeutic option."

Typically, stem cells can be found in various tissues, such as muscle and skin, where they continuously replenish lost cells. Bone marrow stem cells usually produce blood elements, such as red and white blood cells. A growing body of research, however, suggests that stem cells - both embryonic and adult - retain the ability to differentiate into a wider array of body tissue
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Contact: Geoff Spencer
spencerg@mail.nih.gov
301-402-0911
NIH/National Human Genome Research Institute
29-Mar-2001


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