Investigators at Johns Hopkins are studying whether stem cells can restore damaged heart muscle after a heart attack. Their preliminary work with pigs is encouraging.
Three days after inducing heart muscle damage in pigs with a surgically-induced heart attack, the researchers injected stem cells into the heart muscle of some of the pigs. The stem cells had been isolated from the bone marrow of other pigs. Two months later the animals that received the injected cells had significantly reduced scar formation in the heart and nearly normal heart function.
Based on these results the Hopkins researchers have begun a trial of treatment with bone marrow-derived stem cells obtained from other adult donors. The study will enroll 48 subjects who had their first heart attack within the previous 10 days. Rather than injecting the stem cells into the heart, the study will use a far less invasive approach. Cells will be injected into the blood with the anticipation that they will find their way to the damaged heart muscle.
By repairing much of the heart muscle damage produced by a heart attack, this procedure could greatly lessen the subsequent risk of heart failure in these patients. Stay tuned for more updates on this breakthrough research.