An encouraging study presented at the Cardiovascular Research Foundation’s (CRF) Annual Transcatheter Cardiovascular Therapeutics (TCT) scientific symposium has shown that transplantation of bone marrow stem cells into the heart improves heart function and blood flow in Heart Attack patients for up to six months. Among other applications, scientists are currently investigating these stem cells and their potential in repairing damage or loss to cardiac cells and tissues due to Heart Attacks or other heart conditions.
Bone marrow mononuclear (stem) cells, or BMMCs, are derived from the soft, sponge-like marrow found inside bones, and can develop into tissue or new blood vessels. Patients in this study were treated with stem cells extracted from their own bone marrow.
“This kind of success in a relatively new field of interventional cardiology is very exciting,” said the lead investigator of the study, Yanlin Lee, M.D., Zhongshan Hospital, Shanghai, China.
“These stem cells could be repairing or replacing damaged or dead cells in the heart muscle, which unlike other types of cells, cannot divide, repair or replenish themselves.”
After successful emergency treatment for their Heart Attacks, 29 patients were randomly assigned to either a control group that received standard medical treatment, or the bone marrow stem cell transplantation (BMT) group.
In the BMT group, BMMCs obtained from the patient’s own pelvis bone was injected into the left side of the heart within three hours of extraction of stem cells. Post-infusion, BMT patients also received standard medical treatment. The endpoint measurement was the change in overall and left ventricular function, and the improvement in the flow of nourishing blood to the heart, as measured by radioactive isotope imaging at six months.
Some heart attack signs and symptoms are sudden and intense ... the classic “movie” heart attack signs. No one doubts what’s happening when they see these signs and symptoms. But a heart attack usually starts slowly for both men and women, the only signs and symptoms being mild pain or discomfort. Often men and women having a heart attack aren’t sure what the signs and symptoms mean and wait too long before getting help. Women with signs and symptoms of a heart attack typically wait longer, often to their detriment.
For more information check Signs and Symptoms of a Heart Attack?
Six months after transplantation of the stem cells, the ability of the heart’s main pumping chamber, the left ventricle, to send blood to the rest of the body had increased by 5.0% in the BMMC group, but decreased by 0.1% in the control group. In addition, there was a significant improvement in blood flow to the left ventricle in the BMT group, as measured by myocardial perfusion, which helps identify sections of the heart that do not receive enough blood. Researchers in this study concluded that in patients with acute myocardial infarction, emergency transfer of BMMCs was safe and effective in improving function and blood flow in the heart at six months follow-up.
According to Dr. Lee, “The results of this study indicate that the use of bone marrow stem cells in medical treatment could have great benefits for cardiovascular patients, but additional studies are needed to fully understand their potential.”
Revision date: June 18, 2011
Last revised: by Jorge P. Ribeiro, MD