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Stem Cell Therapy for Cardiovascular Disease and Heart Failure

The last week brought news on two discoveries regarding using stem cells for patients with heart failure and cardiovascular disease. In both cases, the autologous (patients' own) stem cells were used in the therapy.

The first finding by scientists of the Center for Regenerative Medicine at Harvard showed that cardiac stem cells are present in all patients, though in different quantities, and could be applied for treating heart failure as they are able to produce new vessel tissue and heart muscle.

After the heart surgery, the scientists could isolate cardiac stem cells form the removed heart tissue of each of 21 patients. The cells were present in the patients regardless of age (average age in the group was 65 years) and diabetes presence, although women had on average 20% more of cardiac stem cells.

The scientists could isolate and multiply the cells to be later used in treating heart failure. They also studied their biological characteristics to understand their therapeutic value. The research showed that cardiac stem cells had significant growth potential though it was lower in older patients or patients with diabetes.

In the second study, the scientists at Northwestern Medicine examined the effects of stem cell treatment of critical limb ischemia (CLI). The cause of CLI is severe artery obstruction. CLI leads to numerous amputations annually as standard treatment is not effective.

The study aimed to clarify whether stem cell treatment can effectively prevent limb amputation. 28 patients with high risk of amputation were injected CD34+ cells at eight locations of their ischemic limbs in order to stimulate formation of new vessels. The study showed that total amputation rate decreased by half after stem cell therapy compared to the control group.

Both studies prove that stem cell therapy can be effectively applied for treating heart and cardiovascular diseases, but more studies are needed to support and develop the findings.