Scar Tissue Caused By Heart Attack Can Be Reversed Using Stem Cells
Soon the heart damage resulted after a heart attack can be considerably reversed using stem cells extracted from the patient’s own heart. During a heart attack, the heart muscle is deprived of oxygen due to the formation of a blood clot. Therefore, even if the patient’s heart heals after this unfortunate event, a scar tissue is formed and that the heart pumping function is affected. For this reason, researchers worldwide are working to find a way to heal heart tissue and improve heart function resulted from prolonged ischemia.
Scientists at Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute performed a study to determine whether stem cells extracted from the patient’s own heart can help repair the newly formed scar tissue . The study was conducted on a group of 25 patients. One month after suffering a heart attack, patients underwent a special procedure during which a tube into a vein in the neck to reach the heart was inserted and a sample of heart tissue was removed. Stem cells from the tissue sample were then grown in the laboratory. When researchers managed to obtain about 25 million cells, they injected the stem cells back in the arteries surrounding the heart of the patient.
The research found that after the heart attack about 24% of the left ventricular was represented by scar tissue. This percentage went down after 6 months of treatment to 16%. Subsequently, a year after the procedure, the results showed that scar tissue accounted for only 12% of the left ventricle.
Scientists stated that stem cells “have an unprecedented ability to reduce scar and simultaneously stimulate the regrowth of healthy [heart] tissue”. Although the research main objective was to test the safety of the method, scientists also observed during this particular study how stem cell therapy stimulates healthy tissue growth and promotes scar tissue removal .
Over a decade of cell therapy trials failed to achieve comparable results until now. According to study author Dr. Eduardo Marban, he and his team are the first to record such a success. Effects are substantial and the results are better than they were in the animal testing phase.
However, even if stem cells manged to restore ventricular total capacity, the ejection fraction remained unchanged (amount of blood ejected with each beat from the left ventricle). Furthermore, other scientists who recognize the findings as very promising, suggest that the study was conducted on a very small sample of patients and therefore further research on larger samples is required for more accurate data.