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Growth Factor Drug Helps Heart Heal

Injecting it into heart after attack regenerates damaged muscle

TUESDAY, Nov. 11, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- A growth factor drug that stimulates bone marrow to produce stem cells also helps regenerate damaged heart muscle, says a Canadian study.

The study of the drug granulocyte colony stimulating factor (G-CSF) is one of the first of its kind; the results were presented Nov. 11 at the American Heart Association's annual conference in Orlando, Fla.

"Research has shown that there are cells in the heart that come from bone marrow stem cells. We hypothesized increasing these cells after a heart attack may help the heart regenerate heart muscle cells, and this is supported by our results," researcher Dr. Chris A. Glover, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Ottawa and the Ottawa Heart Institute, says in prepared statement.

"The main limitation of this study is that it included only five patients and was not randomized. On the other hand, the study's strength are that it explores the use of novel therapy, which is a simple treatment that any physician could use to improve the outlook for heart attack patients," Glover says.

All five patients in the study had anterior wall heart attacks, also known as large heart attacks. They all had emergency angioplasty. That's a procedure where an inflatable balloon is inserted into blood vessels to compress plaque and restore blood flow.

Within two weeks after their heart attack, the patients were injected with G-CSF once a day for four consecutive days. Measurements of CD34, a marker of stem cells, and white blood cells were used by the researchers to determine if G-CSF was working.

After four days of treatment with G-CSF, the patients showed about a fivefold increase in white blood cells and about a 10-fold increase in CD34.

Six weeks after treatment with G-CSF, the patients' left ventricular ejection fraction, which measures how much blood is pumped out of the heart's main chamber, increased from 27 percent to 35 percent. The patients also showed considerable recovery of viable heart tissue, from 59 percent to 75 percent.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about heart attack recovery.

SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, Nov. 11, 2003
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