Repairing Hearts with Stem Cells

FRESNO, Calif.

63-year-old Robert Boyce was an avid fisherman before he had three heart attacks in just two years, severely damaging his heart.

"My heart was beating 40 some percent less than it should have been," Robert Boyce told Ivanhoe.

Robert and seven other men were part of a study conducted by Doctor Joshua Hare and his team at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, testing the heart-healing power of stem cells. In a non-invasive catheterization procedure, researchers injected stem cells from the patients' own bone marrow directly into damaged areas in their hearts.

"We wanted to see if we took bone marrow and injected the bone marrow into the areas of injury in these human hearts in these patients, would those hearts get better?," Joshua M. Hare, M.D., a cardiologist and director of the Stem Cell Institute at UM Miller School of Medicine said.

The preliminary results show stem cells significantly reduced the size of enlarged hearts, dramatically improved function in injured areas and reduced scar tissue.

"We think that, for one of the first times in medicine, we've actually taken a damaged area of the heart and made it start beating again," Dr. Hare said.

"My heart... I never had a heart attack. I don't feel as if I had a heart attack," Robert said.

Now, a little at a time.

"It's peaceful being on the water," Robert said.

Robert's getting back into fishing again. He's already feeling younger. An active man hoping that his own stem cells can give him a new lease on life.

Researchers say it's too soon to know whether fixing a damaged heart with stem cells gives Robert or any patient a longer life or better quality of life. Larger, long-term studies may help answer that question. The University of Miami Miller School of Medicine is one of several U.S. centers looking at using stem cells for heart repair.

If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marsha Hitchcock at mhitchcock@ivanhoe.com

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