New Technique Tracks Stem Cells' Progress

Scientists watched as the cells made their way to the heart and beyond

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WEDNESDAY, Sept. 7, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Scientists have discovered a noninvasive way to track the movement of stem cells used to treat animal hearts following a heart attack, according to a new study.

The advance should prove useful in clinical trials aimed at seeing whether stem cells could be used to repair damaged human hearts, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore.

Reporting in the Sept. 6 issue of Circulation, researchers in the university's department of radiology and Institute of Cell Engineering used radioactive tracers and MRI contrast agents to follow stem cells injected into six dogs that had suffered surgically induced heart attacks.

They found that the radioactive tracers outperformed the tracking ability of standard MRI, allowing the team to watch stem cells as they made their way to the heart and then subsequently to other organs such as the liver, kidneys and spleen.

The cells remained visible using the imaging technique for up to seven days after injection.

"Such a noninvasive means of studying stem cell movement could be very helpful in monitoring therapeutic safety and efficacy in clinical trials," lead researcher Dr. Dara L. Kraitchman said in a prepared statement.

More information

The National Institutes of Health has more about stem cells.

SOURCES: Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, news release, Sept. 6, 2005

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