Stem Cells Reverse Damage of Heart Attacks

Therapy tried in pigs could one day be used on humans, researchers say

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TUESDAY, Nov. 9, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Stem cells can be used to treat heart attacks in pigs, says a study by researchers at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions.

If further research with animals and humans proves equally successful, this method could offer a new way to repair and reverse heart muscle damage in heart attack patients, the researchers said.

In the study, the Johns Hopkins team took stem cells from seven adult pigs' bone marrow and injected them into the damaged hearts of seven other adult pigs. The stem cells restored the pigs' heart functions to their original condition within about two months.

"Current treatments for cardiovascular disease prevent heart attack from occurring and/or alleviate its after-effects, but they do not repair the damaged muscle that results, leaving sizably dead portions of heart tissue that lead to dangerous scars in the heart," study author Dr. Joshua Hare, a professor of medicine, said in a prepared statement.

"Damage done by heart attack to heart muscle is really the cause of all the serious complications of the disease: disturbance of heart rhythm can lead to sudden cardiac death and decreased muscle pumping function can lead to congestive heart failure," study co-author Dr. Alan Heldman, an interventional cardiologist and assistant professor of medicine, said in a statement.

"Our aim is to find a way to repair the damage done to the heart muscle and prevent these complications," Heldman said.

The study was presented Tuesday at the American Heart Association's annual meeting in New Orleans.

More information

The American Heart Association has more about heart attack.

SOURCE: Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, news release, Nov. 9, 2004

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