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Promising Procedure Injects Stem Cells Directly Into Patientâ??s Heart

Posted Dec 10 2008 11:36am

In a ground-breaking procedure, surgeons at The Methodist Hospital in Houston injected highly concentrated stem cells directly into a patient’s heart, providing an intense, direct hit on damaged heart tissue.

This technique may be more successful in regenerating healthy heart tissue than current methods that use a catheter to put standard stem cells through the bloodstream into the heart. The 58-year old patient is expected to be discharged this weekend.

“Some patients have such severe heart failure that their only current option is a heart transplant,” said Dr. Brian Bruckner, cardiac surgeon at the Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center in Houston. “We hope that stem cells will stimulate angiogenesis, the growth of new blood vessels, restore mechanical function in diseased heart tissue, and return patients to a much better quality of life without a transplant.”

In a novel process, the patient’s strongest and most robust stem and progenitor cells, derived from the patient’s own bone marrow, are amplified up to 1,000 times before they’re injected back into the patient’s heart. In the procedure, Dr. Bruckner made a small incision in the left side of the patient’s chest and administered approximately 25 injections of concentrated stem cells into the patient’s heart. All patients in the trial will be followed for 12 months after the injections.

There are currently 5.5 million people in the U.S. suffering from chronic heart failure. A subset of these patients has dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), a chronic heart disease in which the patient's heart can not pump effectively enough to deliver blood and oxygen to the vital organs in the body. Patients with DCM typically experience severe limitations to physical activity and shortness of breath.

“Without a new approach to treatment of these patients, they will continue to decline and less than 40 percent will survive five years,” said Bruckner, principal investigator for the trial. “We hope this trial will provide a completely new and viable treatment for them.”

Dr. Michael Reardon, chief of cardiac surgery at Methodist, and Dr. Matthias Loebe, transplant surgeon at Methodist, are co-investigators on the trial. Dr. Kevin Lisman is the patient’s referring cardiologist.

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