The drug, granulocyte colony stimulating factor (G-CSF), treats some forms of cancer. It stimulates bone marrow to produce the different types of blood cells, including white blood cells that can become depleted after disease or chemotherapy.
G-CSF might help repopulate the heart's muscle cells, which in turn could help repair the damaged heart, said lead author Chris A. Glover, M.D.
"Research has shown that there are cells in the heart that come from bone marrow stem cells. We hypothesized increasing these cells after a heart attack may help the heart regenerate heart muscle cells, and this is supported by our results," said Glover, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Ottawa and the Ottawa Heart Institute in Ontario.
"The main limitation of this study is that it included only five patients and was not randomized. On the other hand, the study's strengths are that it explores the use of a novel therapy, which is a simple treatment that any physician could use to improve the outlook for heart attack patients."
All five patients who received G-CSF had anterior wall heart attacks, also known as large heart attacks. They had emergency angioplasty, a procedure to open their vessels by inserting an inflatable balloon that compresses the plaque and restores blood flow.
"We wanted patients with large heart attacks in this study, since they have the most to benefit from a therapy that could regenerate the heart," Glover said.
Within two weeks of the patients' heart attack, doctors injected G-CSF in the fatty skin layers once a day for four consecutive days.
Researchers measured CD34 cells, a marker of stem cells, to find out if the drug was stimulating
Contact: Carole Bullock
American Heart Association