The Hopkins findings, presented in November at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions and published in a supplement to the journal Circulation, are believed to be the first demonstration of how the technique, which labels the cells with minuscule iron oxide particles, can be used to assess the clinical benefit - if any - of cell-based therapies.
According to senior investigator and veterinary radiologist Dara Kraitchman, V.M.D., Ph.D., "The technique has potentially broader applications and benefits for patient care because MRI technology is widely available and avoids the discomfort and risk of infection from biopsies, the standard method used in therapy checkups."
In a related study, also presented at the meeting, the Hopkins team showed that a more advanced technique used with MRI, called inversion recovery with on-resonant water suppression, or IRON for short, could be used to monitor iron-labeled stem cells and to guide deployment of a stent, a device that widens arteries at risk of clogging and prompting a heart attack.
Previous Hopkins research on animals whose hearts had been injected with adult stem cells showed that heart function was restored to its original condition within two months, and more than 75 percent of dead scar tissue disappeared, having been replaced with healthy-looking heart tissue. Clinical studies are now under way at Hopkins and elsewhere to find out if similar benefits result in humans.
"It is still a scientific puzzle as to whether adult stem cells develop into new and healthy heart tissue, or exactly how long their healing effects last, but MRI offers the best chance for determining just how well the therapy works at rep
Contact: David March
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions