When injected into rats' hearts soon after a heart attack, stem cells taken from human umbilical cord blood (HUCB) greatly reduced the size of heart damage and restored pumping function to near normal. This improvement occurred without the need for drugs to prevent the rats' immune system from rejecting the human cells.
The USF study will be published online this week in the journal Cell Transplantation, accompanied by an editorial discussing the progress of stem cell therapy in treating heart attacks, or myocardial infarctions.
If further animal studies and human clinical trials prove equally successful, the USF researchers suggest that stem cells from umbilical cord blood could be a new, widely applicable treatment for limiting or repairing the heart muscle destroyed when the vital organ's blood supply is cut off. In the United States, nearly one of every 2 men and one of 3 women older than age 40 will suffer a heart attack, leaving them more vulnerable to chronic heart failure or another, potentially fatal, heart attack. Medications and bypass surgery have prolonged the lives of these patients, but many live with heart failure characterized by chronic fatigue and shortness of breath.
"Patients with heart failure due to heart attacks and other causes spend much of their day at home in a chair or in bed. These are the patients whose lives we hope to greatly improve with stem cell therapy to restore heart function," said Dr. Henning, lead author of the study.
"Our initial results are extremely promising, but raise questions about how these umbilical cord blood cells work. Are they transforming into new heart muscle cells or secreting growth factors that trigger the heart
Contact: Anne DeLotto Baier
University of South Florida Health