Another light at the end of the tunnel: Stem cells for congestive heart failure

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Yesterday, ACSH reported on an early-stage, small trial of a new gene therapy for Parkinson’s disease that could eventually lead to better cutting-edge therapies. Now we bring you news of another promising innovation — the use of bone marrow stem cells for repairing damaged hearts in patients with congestive heart failure. An early phase clinical trial tested eight male patients with enlarged hearts following a heart attack. Doctors took stem cells from the patients’ own bone marrow and injected them back directly into their hearts. Published in the journal Circulation Research, the results showed that a single injection improved heart contraction activity after three months, reduced scar tissue buildup (typically found in congestive heart failure patients) by an average of 18 percent and reduced heart size by an average of 15 to 20 percent. The study did not, however, assess whether these improvements translated to better long-term health outcomes.

ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross reminds us that congestive heart failure is a huge problem, and “possibly the single worst health problem in this country, with a very poor five year survival rate. If future long-term studies show that this therapy improves patient outcomes, it would be a significant accomplishment and an important milestone in stem cell research.”