In 2007, Thomas Clegg was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition in which the left ventricle of the heart becomes abnormally enlarged. At that time, his ejection fraction – a measure of the heart’s efficiency at pumping blood – was around 9 (nine) percent, whereas a normal ejection fraction is considered to be between 50 and 65%, or higher.
As Mr. Clegg describes, "I was one of the lucky ones. I was still working 8 hours a day. Some people who have 30% ejection fractions can’t walk across the room."
One of his physicians, Dr. Kevin Lisman, informed Mr. Clegg that his best option would be a heart transplant. However, precisely because of the fact that Mr. Clegg was still able to work and remain physically mobile throughout the day, he was very low on the list of recipients, since other people who were in worse condition took precendence.
Then, another option was offered to Mr. Clegg: autologous adult stem cell therapy. Mr. Clegg eagerly accepted the option. According to Dr. Brian Bruckner, who conducted the adult stem cell procedure at the Methodist DeBakey Heart and Vascular Center in Houston, "He didn’t really have a lot of options. Injecting cells directly is kind of a novel idea. We know they help, but we’d like to know more about that mechanism." As Mr. Clegg adds, "My wife and I just wanted to see what was going on. At this point, I would have had to get worse to get a transplant."
In an FDA-approved, Phase II, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multi-center clinical trial in which approximately 40 patients throughout the country participated, Mr. Clegg was the first to receive the adult stem cell treatment, which consisted of treating Mr. Clegg with his own (autolgous) adult stem cells that were harvested from his own bone marrow via his hip. After the doctors in Houston removed 50 milliliters of Mr. Clegg’s bone marrow, it was shipped to Aastrom Biosciences in Ann Arbor, Michigan where the adult stem cells were isolated, expanded and returned to Mr. Clegg’s doctors, who administered the cells directly into Mr. Clegg’s heart.
According to Aastrom CEO George Dunbar, "Lifesaving is where we wanted to focus our efforts. It helps with what nature already does with these mixed cell populations."
Now, nine months after receiving the autologous adult stem cell treatment, Mr. Clegg’s ejection fraction has increased to 30%.
Mr. Clegg has nothing but the highest praise for the medical team in Houston, especially his nurses. As he emphatically states, "They’re my guardian angels. What they’re trying to do is back the clock up. I honestly feel like this has added some time."