U of L researchers use stem cells to repair heart damage

By on November 29, 2011

By Valerio Rasi–

“Heart tissue is dead after scarring occurs.”

This old myth has been proven to be wrong by scientists. A team of doctors and researchers led by Dr. Roberto Bolli from the University of Louisville and Dr. Piero Anversa from Harvard Medical School have shown that stem cells harvested from the patient’s body can regenerate and decrease the chance of heart failure due to myocardial infarction.

“The importance of this experiment is to be the first in using stem cells from heart that show beneficial results in the patient,” Dr. Bolli said. This project is denominated SCIPIO (Cardiac Stem Cells in Patients with Ischemic CardiOmyopathy). The results of this experiment were dramatic. Patients “showed an average of 12 percent improvement one year following the investigative treatment,” the U of L news release said.

“When I first saw the results, I was surprised by the magnitude of the data received,” Dr. Bolli said. “The research on heart surgery has definitely a great potential and expectations in the future,” said freshman biology student Aisha Hamid. “Since the boundaries are limitless, I’m sure that there is a chance to have an even higher percentage of success.”

This research was published on Nov. 14 in the nationally respected medical journal, The Lancet. The experiment has been conducted on Louisville Jewish Hospital patients, who have given part of heart tissue to the researchers. These samples were then sent to Dr. Anversa’s laboratory where they were be contained and allowed to grow. When the cells where in a large number – about one million – they were sent back to the Jewish Hospital’s surgery room.

Dr. Bolli’s team implanted the new replicated stem cells back to the patient’s heart. Other similar experiments involved the use of bone marrow stem cells instead of heart tissue. This research is not controversial because, as said by Dr. Bolli, “we used just adult stem cells. We have nothing to do with embryonic stem cells.” The second phase of the experiment will involve a much larger population, about several hundred patients coming from ten to 20 universities. The goal is to replicate the results and show if stem cells are effective or not to a bigger sample of citizens. “Research is a great aspect for me and anybody else who wants to apply to medical school because if I want to promptly treat my patients I must have the most advanced technologies and techniques at my reach,” biology student Hamid said.

news@louisvillecardinal.com
Photo: Flikr/CodonAUG

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