Posted: Jan 07, 2010
Imagine if stem cell therapy could be widely used not only to manage the insult caused by a heart attack, but to reverse the damage and repair the heart. That day might not be too far off in the future according to a recent human clinical study of 53 heart attack patients published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
In the study, researchers used mesenchymal stem cells (MSC), a particular type of stem cell with several unique characteristics which make them of particular interest to investigators. In a CNN story about the study Jeffrey Karp, a researcher at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts and head of a stem cell lab at Harvard University, explains that MSCs have a “natural homing ability,” and the site of injury acts as a “homing beacon” for them. Not all stem cells have the same characteristics or capabilities. MSCs have an excellent ability to proliferate, or increase rapidly, and give rise to many types of specialized cells that are the building blocks of connective tissue, bone, cartilage, and the circulatory and lymphatic systems.
More than 70 clinical trials are already underway using MSCs, and doctors are enthusiastic about the results reported for therapies addressing several conditions, including stroke, heart attack, bone injuries and autoimmune diseases like type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis. In addition, because MSCs serve as the foundation of connective tissue, applications in treating common joint and sports injuries may be another potential application with widespread use. MSCs are found in bone marrow, fat tissue, and the umbilical cord.
According to Dr. Joshua Hare, director of the Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute at the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine and lead author of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology study, the future looks bright for cardiac patients:
“Mesenchymal stem cells are poised to really be the next major success in cell therapy…” he said.
Click here to read about another study recently reported in the Stem Cell Source showing the reparative ability of stem cells in cardiac disorders.