Stem cell treatments improve heart function after heart attack

February 14, 2012

Stem cell therapy moderately improves heart function after a heart attack, according to a systematic review published in The Cochrane Library. But the researchers behind the review say larger clinical trials are needed to establish whether this benefit translates to a longer life.

In a , the to parts of the heart is cut off by a blocked artery, causing damage to the . The cells in the affected area start to die. This is called necrosis and in the days and weeks that follow, the necrotic area may grow, eventually leaving a large part of the heart unable to contract and increasing the risk of further . uses cells from the patient's own bone marrow to try to repair and reduce this damage. Currently, the treatment is only available in facilities with links to scientific research.

The authors of the review drew together all the available evidence to ask whether adult bone marrow stem cells can effectively prevent and repair the damage caused by a heart attack. In 2008, a Cochrane review of 13 stem cell therapy clinical trials addressed the same question, but the new review adds 20 more recent trials, drawing its conclusions from all 33. By incorporating longer follow up, the later trials provide a better indication of the effects of the therapy several years after treatment.

The total number of patients involved in trials was 1,765. All had already undergone angioplasty, a conventional treatment that uses a balloon to open the blocked artery and reintroduce the blood supply. The review's findings suggest that stem cell therapy using bone marrow-derived stem cells (BMSCs) can produce a moderate long-term improvement in , which is sustained for up to five years. However, there was not enough data to reach firm conclusions about improvements in .

"This new treatment may lead to moderate improvement in heart function over standard treatments," said lead author of the study, Enca Martin-Rendon, of the Stem Cell Research laboratory, NHS Blood and Transplant at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, UK. "Stem cell therapy may also reduce the number of patients who later die or suffer from heart failure, but currently there is a lack of statistically significant evidence based on the small number of patients treated so far."

It is still too early to formulate guidelines for standard practice, according to the review. The authors say further work is required to establish standard methods, including cell dosage, timing of cell transplantation and methods to measure heart function. "The studies were hard to compare because they used so many different methods," said Martin-Rendon. "Larger trials with standardised treatment procedures would help us to know whether this treatment is really effective.

Recently, the task force of the European Society of Cardiology for and Cardiac Repair received funding from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (EU FP7-BAMI) to start such a trial. Principal Investigator for the BAMI trial, and co-author of this , Anthony Mathur, said, ''The BAMI trial will be the largest stem cell therapy trial in patients who have suffered heart attacks and will test whether this treatment prolongs the life of these patients."

Explore further: Largest ever heart stem cell studies get underway

More information: Clifford DM, Fisher SA, Brunskill SJ, Doree C, Mathur A, Watt S, Martin-Rendon E. Stem cell treatment for acute myocardial infarction. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2012, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD006536. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD006536.pub3

Related Stories

Largest ever heart stem cell studies get underway

December 2, 2011
Two linked clinical studies that will show whether stem cell therapy can save the lives of heart attack patients are now underway in London, following the award of €11.7 million funding from the European Commission.

Helping the heart help itself: Research points to new use for stem cells

April 8, 2011
(PhysOrg.com) -- Human trials of stem cell therapy for post-heart attack patients have raised as many questions as they have answered -- because while the patients have tended to show some improvement in heart function, the ...

Delayed stem cell therapy following heart attack is safe but not effective

November 14, 2011
NIH-funded trial shows that therapy with bone-marrow derived cells does not improve heart function after six months; future clinical benefits still possible.

Recommended for you

Molecular hitchhiker on human protein signals tumors to self-destruct

July 24, 2017
Powerful molecules can hitch rides on a plentiful human protein and signal tumors to self-destruct, a team of Vanderbilt University engineers found.

Researchers develop new method to generate human antibodies

July 24, 2017
An international team of scientists has developed a method to rapidly produce specific human antibodies in the laboratory. The technique, which will be described in a paper to be published July 24 in The Journal of Experimental ...

New vaccine production could improve flu shot accuracy

July 24, 2017
A new way of producing the seasonal flu vaccine could speed up the process and provide better protection against infection.

A sodium surprise: Engineers find unexpected result during cardiac research

July 20, 2017
Irregular heartbeat—or arrhythmia—can have sudden and often fatal consequences. A biomedical engineering team at Washington University in St. Louis examining molecular behavior in cardiac tissue recently made a surprising ...

Want to win at sports? Take a cue from these mighty mice

July 20, 2017
As student athletes hit training fields this summer to gain the competitive edge, a new study shows how the experiences of a tiny mouse can put them on the path to winning.

'Smart' robot technology could give stroke rehab a boost

July 19, 2017
Scientists say they have developed a "smart" robotic harness that might make it easier for people to learn to walk again after a stroke or spinal cord injury.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.