Physicians at the University of Louisville in Kentucky have announced the successful completion of the world’s first cardiac stem cell infusion.
The patient, 66-year-old Michael Jones, had suffered the first of two heart attacks slightly over 4 years ago, and within 4 months of the second heart attack he was diagnosed with heart failure and permanent scarring of his heart as a result of multiple blocked arteries. Because he had not yet had bypass surgery, he was a good candidate for adult stem cell therapy. In March of this year he underwent bypass surgery for his blocked arteries, during which time Dr. Mark Slaughter, chief of cardiothoracic surgery at the University of Louisville and director of the Heart Transplant and Mechanical Assist Device Program at Jewish Hospital, removed a portion of tissue from the upper chamber of his heart. The tissue was then sent to Harvard University and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, where the endogenous cardiac stem cells were isolated, expanded and returned to Louisville where doctors injected the cells directly into the scar tissue of the heart via a minimally invasive catheterization procedure that was performed on July 17. Dr. Roberto Bolli, director of the Institute for Molecular Cardiology at the University of Louisville and distinguished chair in cardiology at the Jewish Hospital Heart and Lung Institute, led the study.
Before undergoing the autologous adult stem cell therapy, Mr. Jones had a left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) – a measure of the efficiency with which blood is pumped out of the heart’s left ventricle – that was lower than 25% but which is now around 30% and continues to increase. An LVEF of approximately 58% or higher is considered normal for healthy people.
Thus far, fourteen patients have been enrolled in the FDA-approved Phase I clinical trial which has a target enrollment of 20 patients. A second patient underwent the procedure on Friday, July 24.
According to James Ramsey, president of the University of Louisville, "It is an important, historic announcement. The number one killer is heart disease, and we in Kentucky have a higher incidence than the national average." Indeed, heart failure afflicts approximately 6 million Americans throughout the U.S. although the rate is unusually high in Kentucky, where as many as 14,000 deaths per year – in a state with a population of approximately 4 million people – are attributed to cardiovascular conditions, according to the American Heart Association.
As Michael Jones himself stated at a press conference today, "I am very, very grateful and honored to be chosen as the first recipient. This really seemed natural. It just made sense to use the body to regenerate itself." Looking physically well, strong, and fully recovered from the pioneering procedure that he underwent just a few days ago, he also added, "I hope to have as normal a life as anyone. I might even start jogging again."