Researchers are moving ahead — although sometimes ploddingly — toward the goal of using stem cell therapies to rescue people with cardiovascular disease, the leading killer of men and women in the United States.
Although much of the gains thus far have been in basic science, stem cells do seem close to actually being able to help actual humans.
“We have seen consistent but modest effects of stem cells in improving heart function and reverse remodeling of heart,” said Dr. Gordon Tomaselli, a spokesman for the American Heart Association and an associate professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.
“I think there’s great hope,” added Dr. Darwin J. Prockop, director of the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Scott & White in Temple.
Several studies presented last November at the annual scientific sessions of the American Heart Association in Orlando serve as examples.
In one study, out of Germany, 35 patients who received bone-marrow stem cell transplantation during coronary artery bypass surgery achieved “excellent long-term safety and survival.”
Ten patients who received similar transplantations after repair of mitral valves also fared well, with improvements in the heart’s pumping capacity.
Slovenian investigators had similar success, with improvements seen in patients with advanced heart failure who received bone-marrow derived stem cells.
There were also advances in gene therapy reported, with Singaporean researchers using nanotechnology to deliver genetically modified cells to help heal heart attack damage in rabbits.
The stem cell promise hinges on the ability to produce unlimited supplies of human cardiac cells, experts say.
Kevin Eggan, chief scientific officer for the New York Stem Cell Foundation and associate professor of stem cell and regenerative biology at Harvard University, noted two breakthrough treatments that would require steady production of stem cells.
One is a future “patch” made out of these cells to fix a damaged heart after a heart attack. Researchers also hope to fashion blood vessels out of stem cells for use in bypass surgery and other procedures.
“People are making very substantial progress in being able to make those various vascular cells you would need,” Eggan said. “Transplanting those is something that will come from all of this.” …
via Heart Stem Cells Move Closer to Human Treatments – Yahoo! News.
The image is from this 2008 article:
Donated hearts for lifesaving transplants are scarce, but now researchers may have hit upon a way to generate the blood-pumping organs in the lab–at least in rats. The approach, which involves transplanting cells from a newborn rat onto the framework of an adult heart, produced an organ that could beat and pump fluid. Further refinement will be necessary before the technique is ready for people, but it could also generate other organs.
Approximately 3000 patients in the United States are on the waiting list for a heart transplant, but only about 2000 donor organs become available each year. Stem cells, which can give rise to heart tissue, offer a potential solution. But to form an entire heart, the cells require a framework, or scaffolding, to grow on, and finding an adequate structure has proven difficult. Now, a team led by bioengineer Doris Taylor of the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, has shown that old hearts stripped of their cells may provide a fix for the scaffolding problem.
… To apply this method to people, the heart scaffolding could come from either human cadavers or pigs, Taylor says. Adult stem cells, such as those found in bone marrow, could be taken from patients awaiting transplants and used to grow the new heart. – sciencemag