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Entries in Angina (1)

Thursday
Jul072011

Stem Cell Injections into the Heart Could Stave Off Chest Pain

Medioimages/Photodisc/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) -- George Reed's heart wasn't doing so well: he's 71 and after suffering a heart attack years earlier, Reed had undergone open heart surgery and was put on multiple medications. But nothing seemed to help the dizziness and chest pain he experienced daily.

Reed continued to experience angina, a type of chest pain that occurs when the heart doesn't get enough oxygen-rich blood.  Angina can also be accompanied by dizziness. So when Reed was recommended for an experimental study that would inject his own stem cells into his damaged heart, he signed on.

Researchers gave Reed a drug commonly used in bone marrow transplants that stimulates the marrow to make more stem cells. Then they removed some of Reed's blood, isolated the stem cells and injected them into and around the damaged areas of his heart.

Within a few months, Reed, along with many of the other 100 or so patients at 26 hospital centers who'd received this stem cell treatment, reported feeling better than he had in years.

If the positive results seen in this study hold up in the next phase of the study, which is set to begin enrollment in the fall, this type of cardiac stem cell injection could be added to the arsenal of weapons against angina. The upcoming phase three trial has already been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

While several smaller studies have suggested that injecting stem cells into damaged heart tissue might be effective, this study, in its scope and rigor, was the first of its kind. A total of 167 patients were recruited and randomly assigned to receive a lower dose of stem cells, a higher dose or a placebo. The patients didn't know who got what treatment, and neither did the doctors treating them.

When tracked for a year after the injection, patients who received the lower dose of stem cells could last longer during a treadmill exercise than those who had received the placebo, and they averaged seven fewer episodes of chest pain in a week. To put this in perspective, a popular drug to treat angina, Ranolazine, reduced chest pain by fewer than two episodes a week in clinical trials.

Although the goal of the stem cell shots was to grow new blood vessels, it's impossible to tell if these stem cells were actually growing into blood vessels or if they were just triggering some other kind of healing process in the body, Henry says. Tests in animal models, however, do suggest that new blood vessels are forming, says Dr. Marco Costa, a co-author of the study and George Reed's doctor.

For now, the only gauge of the injections is improvement in symptoms.

Despite the positive results of the study, cardiologists remain "cautiously optimistic" about stem cells as a treatment for angina. The fact that lower doses of stem cells were more effective than larger ones is puzzling and cause for caution, says Dr. Steve Nissen, chairman of the department of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic.

"The jury is still out for stem cell therapies to treat heart disease," says Dr. Cam Paterson, a cardiologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Even so, the results so far provide cautious hope for heart patients.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio