Repairing Hearts with Stem Cells

August 31, 2011 9:23:27 AM PDT
Research suggests that this year, 785,000 people in the United States will have their first heart attack, and nearly half a million more who have already had one or more heart attacks will suffer from another one.

A heart attack occurs if the flow of oxygen-rich blood to heart muscle suddenly becomes blocked. Most heart attacks are a result of coronary heart disease, or CHD.

This is a condition in which plaque builds up inside the coronary arteries that supply oxygen-rich blood to the heart. When plaque builds up in the arteries, it can eventually rupture, causing a blood clot to form on the plaque's surface. If the blockage isn't treated quickly, that portion of heart muscle begins to die. (SOURCE: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

SYMPTOMS: According to the CDC, some heart attacks are sudden, but most start slowly with mild pain or discomfort. Patients often do not realize what is wrong and wait too long before getting help. Some common signs of a heart attack include:

  • Chest discomfort
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating, nausea or lightheadedness

STEM CELLS: A NEW TREATMENT? Dr. Joshua Hare and his team at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine have conducted a study to test the heart-healing power of stem cells -- biological cells found in multicellular organisms. In a non-invasive procedure, researchers injected stem cells from patients' own bone marrow directly into the damaged areas in their heart.

The preliminary results of this study proved stem cells significantly reduced the size of enlarged hearts, dramatically improved function in injured areas, and also reduced scar tissue. Researchers say it is too soon to know whether fixing a damaged heart with stem cells gives a patient a longer or better quality life. Long-term studies may help to provide more answers. (SOURCE: University of Miami Miller School of Medicine)


Omar Montejo, Media Relations
University of Miami Miller School of Medicine
Miami, FL
(305) 243-5654

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