Heart Failure Treatment with Adult Stem Cells

For many patients who have run out of options, a new treatment could offer new hope.

The treatment is for patients who have had stents, surgeries, and other treatments without success. These patients suffer from severe coronary artery disease and are at great risk for heart attacks and progressive heart failure.

An injection of stem cells being tested by doctors at Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center with the hope that it will alleviate the problems patients have with their hearts.

Medical history may be made by James Campbell. The sixty-eight year old heart patient has volunteered to have an injection administered directly into his heart. The injection will be blind, meaning that he could possibly be injected with a placebo. But hopefully, the injection will be a special type of stem cell. Campbell is participating in a clinical trial to see if new blood vessels can be grown with stem cells.

“If it works, it’s worth it,” Campbell said.

“The hope is that these endothelial progenitor cells will grow and divide and allow and facilitate new blood vessels to enter that region of the heart muscle that’s not getting enough blood and oxygen,” said Dr. Gary Schaer, director of cardiac catherization at Rush.

Campbell wants to end the debilitating and chronic chest pain he has suffered for three years. He has survived through a heart attack and two heart surgeries already.

“I can walk maybe 60 to 65 feet and I start having chest pains,” Campbell said.

The day before the injection, Campbell donated his own stem cells like every other patient also enrolled in the trial.

“The advantage of the patient’s own stem cells is there’s no chance of rejection,” Schaer said.

Dr. Schaer says the no ethical issues come into play for this treatment. Several dozen patients like Campbell have been injected by Dr. Schaer using 3-D computer mapping and sophisticated catheter technology since the trial started. The results have been incredibly encouraging and there have been no adverse reactions.

“The patients that we’re seeing in follow up, and we’ve seen several that have come back for their one year follow up, we’ve seen marked improvements in their symptoms,” Schaer said.

The current trial is still recruiting patients. But Rush Medical has more trials planned, with different diseases and different kinds of stem cells.

Some of Campbell’s hobbies prior to his heart problems were riding motorcycles and canoing. He is hoping that the injections will alleviate his pain, and allow him to go back to a normal life where he can be active again.

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