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Heart Trial Holds Promise to Break New Ground

By Seema Mathur,, May 9, 2007

Some doctors are saying that medicine as we know it may be altered forever after observing the outcome of a stem cell clinical trial involving Austin patients.

The trial involves taking bone marrow adult stem cells donated from healthy adults and using them to treat heart attack patients.

Rebuilding the heart muscle of heart attack patients is the promise of the research according to doctors: a feat which has never been accomplished before. With just 10 sites nationally, the trial is in its first phase.

Ben is taking part in the adult stem cell clinical trial and is one of the 53 heart attack patients involved. As a math teacher, he was eager to take the calculated risk.

“I don't feel like a guinea pig,” Ben said. “I don't want to say I feel super human, but I feel just great.”

Some patients were given a placebo while others received the adult stem cells from donated bone marrow. Both treatments were administered within 10 days following a heart attack. Dr. Roger Gammon, who is the director of research at Austin Heart, cardiologist providers in Central Texas, conducted the double blind study.

“We hang a bag that has millions of stem cells in it,” Gammon said. “They infuse through the vein and travel to where there is an injury. It's just a simple intravenous infusion over 30 minutes.”

Ben thinks he was treated with the stem cells. Gammon agrees with him after viewing recent images of his heart.

“Now, his whole heart is moving well,” Gammon said.

Up until this study, nothing could fix damaged heart muscle. This is the very reason why the images of Ben’s heart are so remarkable.

“They don’t just patch the problem, they actually become heart tissue that starts beating,” Gammon said.

“I feel that I can breathe better,” Ben said.

Some patients experienced less irregular heart beats and also had unexpected improvement in lung function according to Gammon. There were no rejection issues with any of the patients.

“There seems to be an amazing homing mechanism with these cells to where they can figure out where there is an injury in your body and they go there and start to heal it,” Gammon said.

Ben, who had some stents put in after surgery also, believes that he experienced a healing of his heart muscle.

Many more patient tests need to be conducted to see if the outcomes continue to be significant. Then the treatment can become approved. Once it becomes an accepted treatment for heart attack damage, Gammon believes that other inflammatory conditions, such as Alzheimer’s will also be treated using similar means.


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