Patients Given Own Stem Cells Escape Heart Transplant

Discussion in 'Health and medical' started by doe, Sep 1, 2003.

  1. doe

    doe Guest

    Patients Given Own Stem Cells Escape Heart Transplant


    Mon Sep 1,11:07 AM ET Add Science - Reuters to My Yahoo!


    By Ben Hirschler

    VIENNA (Reuters) - Four out of a group of five seriously sick
    Brazilian (news - web sites) heart-failure patients no longer needed a
    heart transplant after being treated with their own stem cells, the
    doctor in charge of the research said Monday.



    Such "regenerative medicine," in which stem cells extracted from
    patients' own bone marrow are used to rebuild tissue, may one day
    become commonplace for patients with damaged or diseased hearts, some
    doctors believe.


    Hans Fernando Rocha Dohmann of the Pro-Cardiaco Hospital in Rio de
    Janeiro said his four patients had such a marked improvement in blood
    supply after stem cell treatment that they were removed from the list
    of those needing a heart transplant.


    "This finding has a significant social relevance since there isn't a
    single heart transplant program anywhere in the world which is able to
    treat all the patients who need it," he told reporters at the annual
    meeting of the European Society of Cardiology.


    The whole area of stem cell research is highly controversial because
    the most promising of such cells are taken from embryos, usually
    obtained from fertility clinics. Embryonic stem cells are capable of
    turning into nearly 200 different tissue types.


    Still, doctors believe the field has huge potential.


    "This is the first approach where you have an opportunity to actually
    heal a heart," said Dr Michael Rosen of Columbia University, New York.
    "It's going to be a very long road, but it is the most exciting thing
    I've seen in my 40 years as a doctor in this field."


    EXPERIMENTAL THERAPY


    The four critically ill patients were among a larger group of 14 who
    Dohmann and colleagues from the Texas Health Science Center in Houston
    had in April reported showing improved heart function.


    Their treatment involved taking cells from bone marrow and injecting
    them into the heart's left ventricle, the main pumping chamber. Heart
    failure is the inability of damaged heart muscle to pump enough blood
    around the body.


    Dohmann's patients belong to a small but growing number of patients
    being tested with the experimental therapy in centers around the
    world.


    Doctors at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich., earlier this year
    treated a 16-year-old shot in the heart with a nail gun and
    researchers said some 10-15 similar clinical trials could be under way
    around the world.


    The exact mechanism of action is not understood but medics believe
    stem cells harvested from bone marrow or blood may be able to form new
    muscle and blood vessels. Alternatively, they may trigger a chemical
    reaction that improves the functioning of cells in the locality of the
    injection.


    So far, all the clinical work involves so-called "autologous" cell
    transplants, in which cells are used from the patient's own body.


    Using foreign stem cells is another matter and is unlikely to happen
    for another 10 years, said Professor Juergen Hescheler of the
    University of Cologne.


    Rosen and his team are working on a technique to use cell therapy to
    deliver genes to the heart that would improve its electrical pulse,
    effectively creating a biological pacemaker to replace today's
    mechanical ones.


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