A team of researchers, led by Dr. Roberto Bolli of the University of Louisville and Dr. Piero Anversa at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, is reporting a stem cell breakthrough in treating heart failure.
Preliminary findings show that providing heart patients adult stem cell transfusions improves heart function by regenerating the heart muscle, according to a university news release.
“The initial results are very encouraging,” said Bolli in the release. “For the nine patients of whom we have information four months after receiving infusion of stem cells, their left ventricular function increased by an average of nine percent.
“With drug-coated stents implanted after a heart attack, we see an increase of between four and five percent.”
Bolli, director of U of L’s Institute of Molecular Cardiology and chief of the Division of Cardiology, presented the study today at the American Heart Association annual meeting in Chicago, according to the release.
The study is a joint project between Bolli’s U of L team and Anversa’s laboratory in Boston.
The investigators harvested specific types of heart stem cells from patients during artery bypass surgery at Jewish Hospital in Louisville, according to the release.
The stem cells were purified in Anversa’s lab from other heart tissue cells and allowed to grow. Once ready, the stem cells were reintroduced into the scarred region of the heart by Bolli’s team using a minimally invasive technique.
To date, 16 patients have received the stem cell infusion from U o f L physicians who perform the procedure at Jewish Hospital. Data from nine of those patients was including in Bolli’s and Anversa’s presentation, according to the release.
“The initial results are very encouraging,” said Bolli in the release. “For the nine patients of whom we have information four months after receiving infusion of stem cells, their left ventricular function increased by an average of nine percent. With drug-coated stents implanted after a heart attack, we see an increase of between 4 and 5 percent.”
Bolli noted that in the three patients infused more than a year ago, the increase in heart function has remained steady.
Mike Jones of Louisville is the first person to receive the stem cell infusion in the study.
“I’m doing a whole lot better than I deserve,” Jones said in the release. “While I haven’t gone out jogging, I am able to do a whole lot more with my grandkids. I can play ball with them now, whereas before I could only pass the ball three or four times before I had to stop. I can’t take them on in a real game on the court, but it is a lot more than I could do previously.”
“These results suggest that in patients with heart failure secondary to coronary artery disease, infusion of … crdiac stem cells improves systolic function and functional capacity,” Bolli said. “The ultimate goal of this therapy is to reverse the progression of cardiomyopathy by regenerating heart muscle.”
Bolli stressed that the findings are preliminary and that larger-scale studies must be undertaken before the therapy can be widely used.
See Bolli and Anversa’s findings online at www.americanheart.org