Patients with clogged arteries and severe chest painwho were injected with stem cells from their own bone marrow had a small improvement in blood flow and the pumping ability of their hearts, along with an easing of pain, researchers found.
Doctors in the Netherlands drew bone marrow from the hips of patients in the study. After isolating the stem cells, they injected them back into the patients’ hearts and monitored their progress. The results were published today in theJournal of the American Medical Association.
Researchers are pursuing the use of different kinds of stem cells to treat a range of conditions, and several thousand heart patients have been treated with adult stem cells, those found in mature organs. While some cardiologists originally hoped bone marrow cells might generate new heart muscle to replace damaged tissue, that hasn’t been found to occur, said Warren Sherman, a cardiologist at Columbia University in New York.
“The focus has shifted,” said Sherman, in a telephone interview today. “Cardiologists are now hoping that bone marrow stem cells can promote the growth of new blood vessels and improve the quality of life and level of chest pain patients have.”
The new study, in 50 patients, showed that adult stem cells can improve blood flow and ease chest pain, Sherman said.
In the study, half of the patients got their own stem cells and the others got a simulated treatment. The cardiologists used a catheter, a thin wire threaded through their arteries that also carried a small camera to guide the injections.
The key finding in Sherman’s view was that the treated patients reported greater easing of their chest pain at three months and six months after the procedure than did the placebo patients. On a scale of 0 to 100, the patients who got their own stem cells improved from 56 to 69 after six months, while the placebo patients went from 57 to 64.
“Most patients are looking for relief of chest pain more than improvement in ventricular function,” or pumping action, Sherman said.
He said to truly demonstrate effectiveness of bone marrow cells, larger studies will need to be completed.
Source: Bloomberg 19 May 2009