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Stimulating Stem Cells With Laser Reduces Heart Scarring After the Heart Attack

New treatment allows reducing heart scarring caused by heart attack with the use of laser-treated stem cells. The new technique is low-invasive as it does not require harvesting the patient’s own stem cells and injecting them back into his/her heart. Instead, it stimulates bone marrow to release more stem cells into the blood stream which, having reached the heart, help restore its functions. The finding is ready for clinical trials and has been reported in the journal Lasers in Surgery and Medicine.

Heart scarring that develops following heart attack or stroke leads to thinning heart walls, resulting in its decreased ability to pump the blood. The stem cells, although they are present in the heart, have the very limited ability to recover the heart after the injury in an ischemic event. This caused the researchers to look for ways of treating heart with stem cells. The research concentrated on treating the patients with their own stem cells which required harvesting the stem cells and then injecting them back into the heart. Instead, the procedure developed at Tel Aviv University is non-invasive as it does not require both these stages of the treatment.

The procedure involves use of low-level lasers to “shine” bone marrow. “Shined” bone marrow reveals more stem cells into the blood stream that, moving through the body, respond also to heart’s signals of harm. There the stem cells use their regenerative potential to reduce heart scarring and stimulate growth of new arteries. This procedure, if used a few hour after the heart attack, reduces heart scarring by up to eighty percent.

To study the efficacy of the method, the researchers conducted the therapy on an animal model. They used fluorescent marker to follow bone marrow stem cells that entered blood stream after the shining and marked their increased population in the injured heart regions. In contrast, control group that did not undergo the “shining” procedure showed much lower stem cell concentration in the heart. This proved that the use of low laser doses increased the body’s ability to heal itself with stem cells.

Apart from that, the procedure can be regarded as safer and quicker than other treatment options. The study on the safety of the technique showed that the use of low doses of energy did not lead to formation of abnormal tissues growth. The researchers hope that in the future this procedure could be effective in treating other human organs such as liver or kidney.