A clinical trial to test the safety of treating heart attack damage with stem cells is about to get underway, after a study showed that the therapy helped in pigs.
Two patients have been enrolled so far at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, and a total of 48 are expected to take part across the country, said Joshua M. Hare, who is leading the study, reports Washington Post.
"There is reason for optimism about these findings, possibly leading to a first-ever cure for heart attack in humans," he says. "If a treatment can be found for the damage done by a heart attack to heart muscle, then there is the potential to forestall the serious complications that traditionally result from a heart attack, including disturbances of heart rhythm that can lead to sudden cardiac death, and decreased muscle pumping function that can lead to congestive heart failure."
The researchers are using a special kind of stem cell in an early stage of development, called adult mesenchymal stem cells, to avoid potential problems with immunosuppression, in which every human's immune system might attack stem cells from sources other than itself. Bone marrow adult stem cells do not have the same potential to develop into different organ tissues, as do embryonic stem cells, whose use is more controversial according to the press release published in Medical News Today.
Professor Joshua Hare said: "Ultimately, the goal is to develop a widely applicable treatment to repair and reverse the damage done to heart muscle that has been infarcted, or destroyed, after losing its blood supply.
"There is reason for optimism about these findings, possibly leading to a first-ever cure for heart attack in humans."
The Johns Hopkins scientists took stem cells from the bone marrow of one pig to treat another animal injured by a heart attack.
They used a special kind of stem cell in an early stage of development to avoid the problem of immune system rejection, reports Daily Mail.
The Hopkins findings were first presented last fall at the 2004 Scientific Sessions of the American Heart Association and will be published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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