Your own heart could provide the stem cells to fix itself

How's this for cool? Cells harvested from your heart could provide the necessary mechanism to repair itself after a heart attack. A new technique called CADUCEUS (CArdiosphere-Derived aUtologous stem CElls to reverse ventricUlar dySfunction) (which, as an aside, is the most grasping attempt at an acronym outside of a DARPA-funded project or Star Wars novel) has shown the potential to do just that, by taken a small chunk from the heart, refining it into stem cells, and then reintroducing it into the organ to reduce scar tissue.

This procedure has just gone through a phase 1 trial, and according to the results published in The Lancet, it showed a dramatic improvement in patients.

A group of 25 heart-attack patients participated in the study, eight of whom were controls. The remaining 17 had a piece of heart muscle the size of half a raisin removed in a small procedure. This tissue was used to create 12-25 million cardiosphere-derived stem cells (CDCs), which were infused back into the heart in a second procedure. The result? An average scar size decrease from 24% to 12% of the heart.

Out of those 17, the researchers only saw one serious adverse reaction that they link to the treatment, though three more people in the trial and one control also had serious adverse events.

Conventional wisdom has had it that once heart muscle has turned to scar, it's lost and can't be regained — but this new method shows potential for fighting back to regain that musculature. Now, it just has to make it past phase 2.

This research comes just as a new Cochrane Review has been published about the effectiveness of bone marrow-derived stem cells on heart function after a heart attack — a review which shows moderate improvement in function for up to five years, but calls for more research. However, of the 33 trials and 1,765 patients, methodologies varied widely, but it really does seem as though stem cells may be a major boon to heart attack victims.

Photo by Baie. on Flickr.