Breakthrough in stem cells research with pigs - exciting news for heart patients

September 06, 2017

This encouraging a breakthrough could possibly pave the way for trials in humans.

Dr. Joshua Hare, a cardiologist and professor of medicine, at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, who was the senior author of the study, says that the findings give good reasons for optimism and could lead to a cure for heart attack in humans.

He says their ultimate goal is to develop a widely applicable treatment to repair and reverse the damage done to heart muscle that has been destroyed, after losing its blood supply.

It apparently took just two months for stem cells harvested from another pig's bone marrow and injected into the animal's damaged heart, to restore the animal's heart function and repair the damaged heart muscle from 50 percent to 75 percent.

Already two patients have been enrolled at Johns Hopkins to participate in a Phase I clinical trial of the therapy, which will test the safety of injecting adult stem cells at varying amounts in patients who have recently suffered a heart attack.

The researchers say a total of 48 patients will participate in the human study, and results are not expected until mid-2006.

The research is published in this week's online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Alterations in the cardiac mechanical transitions detected by ultrasound imaging can be used as early indicators to predict heart problems, without the risk of an invasive procedure. Such an early warning system could allow physicians to intervene with appropriate therapies and thus prevent problems that could lead to heart attack or heart failure. The knowledge may also help researchers to develop new and targeted treatments in some heart diseases or further improve cardiac pacemakers or artificial hearts.

Until recently, it was thought to be sufficient to study the function of the heart muscle during the relaxation and ejection phases of the heartbeat. Now, technological improvements in imaging have allowed studies of the heart muscle condition during the transitional phases. These short-lived mechanical transitions are successfully accomplished and prepare the heart for the next beat optimally only if the mechanical, biochemical and electrical events in the cardiac muscle work in concert and delivery of nutrients and oxygen are uninterrupted. Understanding these rapid transitional events not only improves fundamental understanding of heart functioning, but their dependence on various conditions makes these events vulnerable. This vulnerability translates into early changes in the transitional events detected by the state-of-the-art diagnostic imaging methods.

Using pigs as a very close model to human heart function, researchers established benchmarks for measuring normal and abnormal transitions in heart muscle layers. Accurate analyses of motion, deformation (strain), electrical impulses and other parameters characterize the transitional events between the phases of cardiac filling and ejection.


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