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Heart "revolution" hope

Tuesday November 15th, 2011

Patients with heart failure have successfully been treated with their own cells in a "revolutionary" treatment, researchers reported yesterday.

The success of the treatment offers fresh hope in the search to find ways of regenerating the diseased heart.

Some 16 patients were each treated with about a million stem cells, grown in a laboratory from material extracted from their own hearts.

The US project was the first to attempt to treat patients with their own heart cells - known as c-kit positive cells.

The findings of the "Scipio" project were reported to the conference of the American Heart Association in Florida, USA, yesterday - and are also reported in The Lancet.

According to the researchers, the patients enjoyed improvements averaging 12 per cent after a year - about three times what was expected.

Researcher Dr Roberto Bolli, of the University of Louisville, Kentucky, USA, said he hoped for the "biggest revolution" in heart treatment in his lifetime.

He said: "The results are striking. While we do not yet know why the improvement occurs, we have no doubt now that ejection fraction increased and scarring decreased.

"If these results hold up in future studies, I believe this could be the biggest revolution in cardiovascular medicine in my lifetime."

Professor Peter Weissberg, of the British Heart Foundation, warned that the study was not yet complete.

He said: “This is positive, but the crucial next steps are to see whether this improvement is confirmed in the final completed trial, and to understand whether the cells are actually replacing damaged heart cells or are secreting molecules that are helping to heal the heart."

Writing in The Lancet, Professor Gerd Heusch, University School of Medicine, Essen, Germany, talks of "new optimism" for the treatment.

He said: "We will have to see whether further data will meet the promises of the present study: more patients will need to be followed up over a longer period."

* The conference also heard of disappointing results from similar research using stem cells taken from bone marrow. The cells were injected shortly after patients suffered heart attacks in the hope of preventing heart failure.

Dr Susan Shurin, of the US National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute, said: "Stem cell therapy is a promising direction for repairing the damage done by a heart attack. We do not fully understand the optimal use of these cells."

* German researchers have identified a heart chemical that could play a key role in regenerating hearts.

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Heart and Lung Research , Bad Nauheim, say oncostatin M seems to play a key role in helping the heart heal itself.

The Cardiac stem cells in patients with ischaemic cardiomyopathy (SCIPIO): initial results of a randomised phase 1 trial. Roberto Bolli et al. Lancet November 14 2011 doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(11)61590-0

Tags: Heart Health | Internal Medicine | North America

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