Patients’ own stem cells used to reverse heart damage

A story on research involving the use of stem cells to repair damaged hearts received a significant amount of coverage, particular on all of the network news broadcasts, where it received more coverage, with regard to time, than any other story on the broadcasts the entire week..

ABC World News reported, “Nearly six million Americans have heart failure. But today, the word we’ve longed to hear, a medical breakthrough that unleashes the power of our own stem cells, word that stem cells can reverse heart damage. Even recreate a healthy heart.”

On NBC Nightly News, NBC Chief Science Correspondent Robert Bazell explained that physicains “remove a tiny piece of tissue from the patient’s heart, either during open heart surgery or, if the patient does not need that, with a simple biopsy. The tissue goes to Brigham Women’s Hospital in Boston where doctors have learned to extract stem cells that after a month in a Petri dish grow into large numbers of heart muscle cells at go back into the heart, multiply and replace the damaged muscle.”

The CBS Evening News reported, “The findings were presented at a meeting of the American Heart Association [AHA] today,” but “it’s important to note it’s just the beginning of trials and it’s not clear where all of this will lead or how many patients it might help.”

In a separate segment on CBS Evening News CBS correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook said, “What’s new is previous studies used stem cells from the bone marrow, really non-specific. These take stem cells from the heart. So theoretically they should work better.”

The Los Angeles Times “Booster Shots” blog reports that, at the AHA conference, “Dr. Roberto Bolli, director of the division of cardiology at the University of Louisville in Louisville, KY, and colleagues presented initial results from an ongoing clinical trial that treated 16 heart attack patients with infusions of cardiac stem cells that had been harvested from their own hearts during bypass surgery.”

This research “was also described in an article published simultaneously by the journal The Lancet.”

Separately, “Dr. Eduardo Marb├ín, director of the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles, discussed final results from another Phase 1 trial in which doctors harvested cardiac tissue using a minimally invasive technique, cultivated stem cells from the tissue and administered them to 17 study subjects.”

The CNN reports that while both groups “used cardiac stem cells … Bolli and” colleagues “‘purified’ the CSCs, so that more than 90% of the infusion was actual stem cells.”

Meanwhile, “Marban … used a mixture of stem cells and other types of cells extracted from the patient’s heart.”

I’ve argued for some time that these types of studies should be the proverbial nail-in-the-coffin for continuing to fund or perform the unethical embryonic stem cell research.

Not only are one’s own stem cells more stable, they are more likely to work, and do not require anti-rejection drugs. Bravo to these researchers for this incredible work.