A small trial showed that stem cell injections into damaged hearts helped to improve heart functions and reduce heart size. The results of the trial were published in Circulation Research: Journal of the American Heart Association.
People with enlarged hearts resulting from heart attacks might be interested in the study. These people can be often hospitalized or have major disability; they also die prematurely. The traditional treatment options are lifelong medicines intake or heart transplantation.
In the trial conducted at Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute, University of Miami, eight men (aged 57 on average) got injections of stem cells gathered from their own bone marrow into their hearts. For the injections, catheters were used.
After the injections, the patients’ heart functions improved, which was followed by heart size reduction. The effects persisted for a year, which was the whole study duration. In the trial, the hearts of the patients reduced 15 to 20 percent, which is three times as much compared to the level achieved by the medication therapy. Moreover, the scar tissue decrease equaled on average 18.3%. This was accompanied by impressive improvement in the contraction of damaged heart areas.
All the patients tolerated the procedure well. Even the patients with old cardiac injures could benefit from the stem cell injections—some patients received damage to their hearts more than a decade ago.
In the trial, two types of the stem cells were used—mononuclear and mesenchymal stem cells. However, due to small-scale character of the study, the researchers could not determine the preferable cell type for the injections.
The study suggests that quality of life of heart patients may improve with this therapy, but further clinical studies are needed to prove the clinical benefit of the treatment.