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Gilbert Stem Cell Research Programs are Making Healthcare History

At a Town Hall meeting on October 6th, 2009, residents of Gilbert Arizona listened to medical advances being made in the area of adult stem cells for heart failure. Stem cell pioneer Dr. Nabil Dib, Director of Cardiovascular Research at the Mercy Gilbert Medical Center has been one of the first physicians in the United States to use a type of stem cell called myoblasts, for treatment of patients with heart failure. Since those early studies which began in Phoenix Arizona in 2000, thousands of patients have been treated with their own stem cells for heart failure.

Dr. Dib explained how after a heart attack the injured heart muscle produces chemical signals that attract stem cells from the bone marrow, as well as activate stem cells that are resident within the heart but usually not active. Unfortunately, the repair response after a heart attack is usually not very strong, and as a result, after a heart attack the heart continually loses function until heart failure can occur.

One of the techniques being performed at Mercy Gilbert is administration of stem cells within several days after the heart attack. When the stem cells are administered in the blood, they can "sense" that there is something wrong with the heart and try to repair it.

At the meeting Dr. Dib received many commendations for his excellent work. "Dr. Dib’s work for Mercy Gilbert rivals that found primarily in university and research hospitals, so we are proud and honored to have him working here in Gilbert at Mercy Gilbert Medical Center," Councilmember Joan Krueger said. The Mayor of Gilbert stated "History is being made in our town of Gilbert at Mercy Gilbert Hospital."

In addition to the advances in the use of myoblast and bone marrow stem cells, Dr. Dib explained how the hospital is opening up a public cord blood bank. Cord blood is a rich source of stem cells that have several unique properties because they come from tissue that is not mature. Traditionally, cord blood has been used for transplantation of patients with leukemias because the cord blood is capable of making a new blood system when given to patients who have been previously treated with very high doses of radiation and chemotherapy. The use of cord blood without radiation and chemotherapy was reported in many situations but until recently has not been used in the United States.

Researchers at University of Florida and Duke have started using cord blood for Type I Diabetes and Cerebral Palsy as part of clinical trials. The creation of a public cord blood bank at Gilbert will allow for researchers to conduct similar clinical trials.

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