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Stem cell therapy effectively treats heart attacks in animals

he researchers found that injections of bone marrow, or "adult," stem cells directly into heart muscle, recently damaged by a heart attack, produced a nearly full recovery after a relatively short period of time, two months.

Recovery was measured for the seven treated animals as full restoration of heart muscle contraction to levels existing prior to infarction. Indeed, dead scar tissue nearly disappeared after therapy, which produced mostly healthy, normal-looking heart tissue and left only a small trace of the heart attack, the researchers said.

In contrast, for the seven animals in the control group that did not receive therapy but were injected, instead, with placebo, no recovery was observed and the animals' condition worsened, leading to the development of congestive heart failure within two months after heart attack.

In order to thoroughly cover the area of damaged heart muscle - approximately the size of a one-dollar coin - researchers gave every treated animal between 12 and 15 microscopic injections of adult stem cells, each injection containing nearly 200 million cells.

The cells were injected directly into the heart muscle using a specialized catheter inserted through a tiny puncture in an artery, a procedure similar to other cardiac catheterization techniques. Use of this catheterization technique was shown to be safe and effective. Its use increases the options for delivering stem cell therapy in the future; most existing studies use intravenous injections.

It remains unclear how or why the adult stem cells developed into new and healthy heart tissue, or exactly how long their healing effects last.

Adult stem cells were used because they are readily available from the bone marrow, where they are plentiful. A special kind of bone marrow stem cell, called a mesenchymal stem cell, was separated from other kinds and used in this study. While their precise biological action is not known, mesench
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