Amit Patel, M.D., from the Division of Cardiac Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and a faculty member of the university's McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, and colleagues from the University of Pittsburgh, Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas and the Department of Cardiovascular Surgery at the Benetti Foundation in Rosario, Argentina, say their findings provide the first convincing evidence that transplantation of adult stem cells that promote growth of blood vessels and heart muscle can be a viable treatment for congestive heart failure. While some previous studies have suggested benefit, results of these studies have been questioned due to the small number of patients studied and lack of comparison data from patients not receiving the therapy.
The idea behind the current multi-center trial and others is that stem cells introduced into a heart damaged from heart attack or chronic illness could feasibly differentiate into heart muscle cells and cells that promote new vessel growth, thereby improving the heart's ability to contract more effectively and restoring blood supply to the heart itself.
The study involved 20 patients with severe heart failure (New York Heart Association heart failure classification III and IV) who had ejection fractions less than 35 percent. Ejection fraction is a standard measure of heart function and is determined by the total amount of blood that the left ventricle pumps out per heart beat. A patient with good heart function has an ejection fraction of at least 55 percent. Each patient was scheduled for off-pump (beating heart) cardiac bypass surgery; 10 we