THURSDAY, Jan. 6, 2005 (HealthDayNews) -- Stem cells taken from human umbilical cord blood reduced heart attack damage in rats, says a University of South Florida study published online this week in Cell Transplantation.
The stem cells were injected into the rats' hearts just after they suffered induced heart attacks. The stem cells greatly reduced the amount of heart damage and restored heart pumping function to near normal. Drugs were not needed to prevent the rats' immune systems from rejecting the human stem cells.
If further animal and human research proves this method is safe and effective, umbilical cord blood stem cells could offer a new way to limit or repair heart attack damage in people, the study said.
"Patients with heart failure due to heart attacks and other causes spend much of their day at home in a chair or bed. These are the patients whose lives we hope to greatly improve with stem cell therapy to restore heart function," study author and cardiologist Dr. Robert J. Henning said in a prepared statement.
"Our initial results are extremely promising, but raise questions about how these umbilical cord blood cells work. Are they transforming into new heart muscle cells or secreting growth factors that trigger the heart to repair itself? We need more research to ensure such therapy will ultimately benefit patients with little or no side effects," Henning said.
The Cleveland Clinic Foundation has more about heart attack.