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Study: Stem cells from strangers can repair hearts

Posted November 6, 2012

Stem cells can be successfully used to repair damages in different types of biological tissues, thanks to their inherent ability to transform into cells of the required type. This medical method also works for human heart, e.g. to restore (at least to some degree) the normal heart function. Until now there was only one main question: how the patient would respond medically if the stem cells used for his (or her) treatment would be taken not from his own organism?

Certainly, after a heart attack there is simply no time to cultivate patient’s native stem cells. According to results of the study led by University of Miami, stem cells from “total strangers” (i.e. not relatives) can be successfully used to repair the heart damage:

The study used a specific type of stem cells from bone marrow that researchers believed would not be rejected by recipients. Unlike other cells, these lack a key feature on their surface that makes the immune system see them as foreign tissue and attacks them, explained the study’s leader, Dr. Joshua Hare of the University of Miami.

The patients in the study had suffered heart attacks years earlier, some as long as 30 years ago. All had developed heart failure because the scar tissue from the heart attack had weakened their hearts so much that they grew large and flabby, unable to pump blood effectively.

Researchers advertised for people to supply marrow. The cells were removed from the marrow using a needle into the hip and then amplified for about a month in a lab at Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins University, then returned to Miami to be used for treatment, which did not involve surgery.

The cells were delivered through a tube pushed through a groin artery into the heart near the scarred area. Fifteen patients were given cells from their own marrow and 15 others, cells from strangers. About a year later, scar tissue had been reduced by about one-third.

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