Scientists are sure that stem cell therapy could one day replace transplants and pacemakers.
A new study found that patients with end-stage heart failure can be treated with stem cells from their own bone. Doctors found that 37% of the patients are less likely to have been admitted to hospital in the 12 months following the operation and half as likely to have died than those on placebo.
In this treatment, the bone marrow are harvested from the patient and enhanced over two weeks to increase two types of cells associated with healing. Then, they are injected directly into the patient’s heart.
The study was called ixCELL-DCM. It’s the largest cell therapy study for treating heart failure to date. All of the findings were presented at an American College of Cardiology meeting and published in The Lancet.
“Over the last decade there has been a series of trials involving injecting a patient’s own bone marrow-derived cells to help repair the failing heart. Most studies have been small and overall shown the procedure is safe but the clinical benefit, if any, has been marginal.
Bone marrow stem cell therapy appears to be safe but using it to improve heart function and the quality of life for patients depends on further research.”, said Professor Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation.
“This is the first trial of cell therapy showing it can have a meaningful impact on the lives of patients with heart failure.”, said Dr Patel.
Heart failure affects about 900,000 people in the UK with more than half aged over 75. This condition happens when the heart is not able to pump enough blood around the body at the right pressure. It can cause serious health conditions, including coronary heart disease, heart attack and high blood pressure.
There are already drugs that can help to keep the blood vessels open and lower blood pressure. They are often prescribed to help manage the condition, but unfortunately they can not always help for all patients. For some patients a heart transplant is the only option. Many die waiting for an organ to become available.