Stem cell therapy effectively treats heart attacks in animals

Results from an animal study conducted at Johns Hopkins show that stem cell therapy can be used effectively to treat heart attacks, or myocardial infarcts, in pigs. Stem cells taken from another pig's bone marrow, when injected into the animal's damaged heart, were able to restore the heart's function to its original condition.

If further animal studies and human clinical trials prove equally successful, the Hopkins researchers believe this could be a new, widely applicable treatment to repair and reverse the damage done to heart muscle that has been infarcted, or destroyed, after losing its blood supply. Nearly 8 million Americans alive today have suffered at least one heart attack and so are at greater risk for chronic heart failure or another, potentially fatal, heart attack.

"Current treatments for cardiovascular disease prevent heart attack from occurring and/or alleviate its after-effects, but they do not repair the damaged muscle that results, leaving sizably dead portions of heart tissue that lead to dangerous scars in the heart," said cardiologist Joshua Hare, M.D., professor of medicine at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and its Heart Institute, and lead author of the study to be presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2004 on Nov. 9.

"Damage done by a heart attack to heart muscle is really the cause of all the serious complications of the disease: Disturbances of heart rhythm can lead to sudden cardiac death and decreased muscle pumping function can lead to congestive heart failure," said study co-author and interventional cardiologist Alan Heldman, M.D., assistant professor of medicine at Hopkins, who performed the injection procedures. "Our aim is to find a way to repair the damage done to the heart muscle and prevent these complications."

In a controlled study of 14 pigs (whose circulatory systems are similar to humans), seven received therapy and another seven did not. T


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