Contrary to the long held belief, the findings of the study show that a damaged human heart muscle can be regenerated and repaired.
For the study, conducted by Dr. Roberto Bolli, Director of cardiology unit at the University of Louisville in Louisville, Ky., and colleagues, heart attack patients were infused with cardiac stem cells harvested from their heart's tissue sample collected during their respective bypass surgeries.
The researchers recorded the efficacy of the heart using the left ventricle ejection fraction, the percentage of blood leaving the heart's main chamber with every pump.
14 heart attack patients who received that stem cell treatment exhibited improved cardiac function four months post procedure. Their hearts’ efficacy improved from 30.3 percent at the start of the trial, to 38.5 percent four months later. Eight patients displayed further cardiac improvements a year later, researchers highlighted.
Conversely, seven patients in the control group who did not receive stem cell injections showed no change in their ejection fraction.
“We believe these finding are very significant,” Bolli marked. “Our results indicate that cardiac stem cells can markedly improve the contractile function of the heart.”
“This is positive, but the crucial next steps are to see whether this improvement is confirmed in the final completed trial, and to understand whether the cells are actually replacing damaged heart cells or are secreting molecules that are helping to heal the heart,” he added.
The findings of the study are published in the current issue of the journal ‘Lancet’.