A national study that will examine whether our own blood stem cells can repair the heart will be available to individuals with severe angina that have limited treatment options.
Because of narrowed coronary arteries, certain areas of the heart don’t receive adequate oxygen. Researchers hope stem cells will stimulate the growth of new blood vessels, called angiogenesis, in these areas.
As many as 20 patients could join the study which is being conducted at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, said principal investigator of the study’s local arm, Dr. Joon, clinical director of the UPMC Cardiovascular Institute. Six patients have enrolled thus far.
The trial will be conducted at 15 to 20 different medical centers requiring a total of 150 coronary artery disease patients.
Dr. Joon explained that the study is aimed at people with what we would call refractory angina, or chest pain and shortness of breath that’s coming from inadequate blood flow to the heart. Many of the study participant’s have already had bypass surgery or other procedures. However, they continue to have symptoms.
To increase the number of stem cells in blood circulation, study participants will take a drug for five days that will facilitate this boost. Upon the completion of the initial boost, the researchers will draw blood form the patient and collect and purify the stem cells in it.
Sophisticated cardiac navigation systems will assist the doctors with the process of injecting the cells back into the patient. Following the procedure, patients will receive MRI scans and other assessments in addition to being monitored with a symptom and activity diary and exercise testing.
Those who may be eligible for the stem cell trial include adult patients who are taking maximum medical therapy for severe coronary artery disease and are not candidates for angioplasty, stents, bypass surgery or other conventional treatments.