Slicing open your finger is met with a flood of trouble. But, provided you keep it clean and dry – your body manages to patch up the gash. Sometimes the patch is a little rough around the edges, but for the most part, the patch is perfectly functional, even if it is a little aesthetically unpleasing.
So why can skin be spontaneously patched, but damaged hearts are left to languish following a heart attack.
Turns out it might just be a numbers problem.
Sending in a reconstruction crew
The CADUCEUS (CArdiosphere-Derived aUtologous stem CElls to Reverse ventricUlar dySfunction) clinical trial has found that if a big enough reconstruction crew is dispatched, heart patch up takes place.
Researchers from Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute provided heart attack victims with a stem cell shot shortly after the big block. A year later, those patients who got the shot of extra workers, showed less damage to the heart muscle and evidence of re-growth of healthy muscle.
Amazingly the extra workers came from the diseased hearts.
Giving away a piece of my heart
The researchers used extensive imaging scans to pin point the bits of the heart which had been decimated by the oxygen famine, in each of the 25 participants enrolled in the study.
The extent of the damage was meticulously recorded.
Eight of the victims were treated in the normal fashion – they received prescription meds and were encouraged to make the usual lifestyle modifications i.e. eat “right” and exercise a little.
The other 17 patients donated a bit of heart – the size of the piece “donated’ was around half a raisin. To get hold of the bit, required local anesthesia and the winding of a tube from a vein in the neck down to the heart. Using “pincers” at the end of the tube, a “healthy” bit of heart was wrenched out and this fragment was then rushed over to a high tech lab.
Heart heal thy self
Using the latest tools and techniques, the precious bit of heart was encouraged to multiply and be fruitful.
It didn’t take too long to swell the numbers.
12-25 million little heart stem cells were then injected directly back into the patient.
Heart stem cells patch up the old heart
The heart stem cells did what heart stem cells are designed to do i.e. they sprang to work “fixing” the damaged muscle.
The research team repeated the imaging scans 12 months later in all the patients. Using the earlier set of imaging data they compared the before and after images.
Patients who had to rely on the normal workforce showed little to no improvement. But the hearts’ of those who had benefited from stem cell relief workers, were in much better shape.
On average, the mopping up and reconstruction had reduced visible damage by 50 %.
This is one of the first clinical trials to demonstrate the power of stem cell therapy in humans.
Surviving a heart attack is not a get out of the grave card. Most victims end up with significant deficits in heart function – collectively termed heart failure.
Heart failure is actually the biggest killer today.
Doctors have fine tuned the art of minimizing the damage caused by a heart attack by restoring blood flow quickly. Stem cell technologies like this, will enable them to actually restore the damage as well.
Prevention is still better than cure
Research like this offers hope that if your ticker stops ticking, you will not stop ticking too.
But prevention is still better than cure.
Getting the 7 Big Spoons™ sorted is one way to keepy your heart healthy.
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