Stem Cells Healing Hearts

July 16, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Right now, nearly five million people are suffering from congestive heart failure. For some, a bypass will work. But for others, there's little doctors can do. Now, some patients are healing their own hearts -- using their own stem cells.When lieutenant Ronnie Smallwood isn't working ? he's fishing! And when he's not fishing ? he's thinking about fishing. Lieutenant Smallwood has been part of the public safety department for 27 years and those years have taken a toll on his heart.

"By the end of the work day, all I wanted to do was go to the house and on the couch until bedtime," Smallwood says.

He suffered from congestive heart failure. Heart bypass failed -- twice! One of his last options ? to heal himself with his own stem cells.

"The idea behind stem cell therapy is that by giving cells into certain places where a muscle may lack blood flow, we can stimulate the growing of new blood vessels," says Emerson Perin, M.D., Ph.D., a cardiologist at the Texas Heart Institute in Houston, Texas.

Dr. Perin took Smallwood's own bone marrow, filtered out stem cells and then -- with a catheter -- precisely placed Smallwood's stem cells in the part of the heart that needed them the most ? with no risk of rejection!

"What we are doing with the stem cells is hopefully creating better blood flow to areas of the heart that don't get good blood flow," Dr. Perin says.

"They're giving me a natural bypass," Smallwood says. "Naturally growing arteries. How it's done it, I don't know."

Lieutenant Smallwood is now getting blood flow to the lower part of his heart.

"I started noticing the pain wasn't near as bad. I've got energy again," he says.

And now that he's feeling better, Smallwood is ready to give up his desk job and spend his days at the lake.

"Now I'm back to fishing and lovin' every minute of it," he says.

It can take up to four months for patients to feel the effects of stem cells implanted in their heart. Doctors don't consider this a substitute for bypass surgery, but a last resort when bypass and other methods don't work.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:
Texas Heart Institute
Houston, Texas
www.texasheart.org
Heart Information Center
(800) 292-2221


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