U of Miami tests stem cells to treat congestive heart failure

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University of Miami (UM) doctors have operated on the initial patient in a first-of-its kind study to determine whether adult stem cells taken from one’s own bone marrow and injected directly into the heart can grow into healthy tissue and repair the damaged organ, as a radical new way of treating congestive heart failure.

If the experiment works, it could bring a new course of treatment for the five million Americans affected by heart failure, according to Miami Herald.

“'We're very optimistic,” Joshua Hare, MD, principal investigator and chief of the cardiovascular division at the medical school, told the Herald. The procedure worked well in earlier FDA-mandated animal trials, he said. “We had a very clear demonstration that it grows new heart tissue.”

The procedure might be adapted for kidneys, pancreases, spinal cords, brain tissue and other organs, Pascal Goldschmidt, dean of the UM Medical School, told the Herald. The procedure could ease the number of cases in which patients die because there are too few transplantable organs. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has reported that 18 people die each day under these circumstances.

The 18-month study on 45 patients with heart failure in Miami and at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Hare told the Herald he is encouraged by favorable results from a 2007 study he led at UM, Johns Hopkins and other hospitals, in which stem cells were harvested from 53 heart attack patients' bone marrow, then injected into their veins. Attracted by chemical signals from inflammation from the heart attack, the cells traveled to the damaged part of the heart, improving heart function.

The National Institutes of Health's Specialized Center for Cell-based Therapy Initiative is funding the study.