Marrow injection gets damaged hearts moving

CHICAGO, Nov. 17 In one of the first studies of its kind, researchers discovered that bone marrow cells injected directly into the heart significantly enhanced function, according to findings reported today at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2002.

Heart wall contraction improved significantly after patients had their own bone marrow injected into scar tissue caused by heart attacks. Heart wall motion improved within weeks of treatment and persisted for at least 10 months after treatment in 14 patients.

"The benefit (of transplanting bone marrow into scar tissue of the heart) could be seen only six weeks after injection," says Manuel Galinanes, M.D., a heart surgeon at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom.

The technique is a new way to strengthen heart muscle after a heart attack, he adds.

Bone marrow has been used for years to treat certain types of cancer and disorders affecting the body's disease-fighting immune system. Marrow transplantation is an attractive therapy because it can form healthy new cells. Bone marrow also has the potential to develop into many different types of cells.

"Bone marrow not only can differentiate into heart cells, but also smooth muscle cells, connective tissue cells and other types of cells to reconstitute the entire structure of a tissue," Galinanes says.

The investigators have yet to prove that bone marrow creates a new cellular infrastructure in heart scar tissue, but "that is the only possible explanation," Galinanes says.

The British team treated patients whose hearts had been severely damaged by heart attacks. All patients had low ejection fractions, meaning the heart muscle had lost much of its ability to pump blood into the circulation. The bone marrow injections were given during non-emergency coronary artery bypass surgery. Before surgery, each patient had a stress test to confirm abnormal movement in the walls of the heart muscle. The test invo

Contact: Carole Bullock
American Heart Association

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