Special type of stem cells could help heal hearts

August 9, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
About 5.8 million Americans have heart failure, a condition that occurs when the heart can no longer pump enough blood to meet the body's needs.

Now, researchers say a special type of stem cell may be the key to repairing these hearts. Golf has always been a big part of Ron Signorelli's life.

"I started when I was ten," Ron said.

However, Ron's congestive heart failure was keeping him away from his favorite pastime.

"I was in the hospital over 20 times," Ron said.

Ron's heart pumped only 15 percent of blood. He needed help fast.

"There's a large number of patients out there that are really in this situation where they're gone past what normal medical therapy can do, but yet they're not sick enough or don't qualify for a heart transplant," Timothy D. Henry, MD, Director of Research Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation said.

Now, a new approach can help patients like Ron. First, doctors extract bone marrow stem cells from the patient. Then, they grow the cells to enhance their healing ability. Those cells are then injected directly into the patient's heart.

"Our hopes are we improve the quality of their life, as well as the length of their life," Dr. Henry said.

In the first clinical trial, the treatment was safe, repaired damaged heart muscles, and even appeared to reverse some heart failure symptoms. Ron had 12 injections and hasn't been to the hospital since.

"I certainly feel good. I'm a very active person," Ron said. Now, nothing stops his stride. "When the weather is nice, I'll play three, four times a week," Ron explained.

Researchers are planning enrollment for the second phase of this trial at about 30-sites across the U.S. Once the results are assessed, the treatment will likely be more widely available. This therapy would not replace a heart transplant, but may delay or prevent the need for transplantation in the future.

If you would like more information, please contact:

Timothy D. Henry, MD Director of Research Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation (612) 863-3833


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