Myocardial Infarction (Heart Attack)
Traumatic cardiovascular conditions such as a heart attack (acute myocardial infarction), damage portions of the heart and can be fatal. People who survive a heart attack often face a diminished quality of life and long-term health problems.
Even when people survive heart attacks the damage is quite severe. This causes scar tissue, which means the heart can no longer pump as well, and about 50 per cent of people die within five years.
Human and Social Costs
The American Heart Association estimates that 3.5% of the U.S. population age 20 and over has had a heart attack. Based on current population figures, this would amount to over 7 million people.
Potential for Cures
Stem cells may help your heart after a heart attack or myocardial infarction. Stem cells have the potential to repair damaged tissue, such as damaged heart muscle, and can possibly promote “angiogenesis” which is the growth of new blood vessels.
Researchers are looking at many questions surrounding stem cell therapy: how many stem cells to infuse into the heart, how long it will take to see results, how soon after a heart attack should treatment be delivered, how much tissue regeneration can patients expect. The long-term effects of such therapy are still unknown.
A multicenter research consortium sponsored by the NHLBI, the Cardiovascular Cell Therapy Research Network, is undertaking three heart stem cell trials, including one to compare the effectiveness of stem cell therapy delivered at three days versus seven days following a heart attack.
- Stem cells obtained from bone marrow, known as BMCs, can be safely injected into people 2-3 weeks following a heart attack, reports a new clinical trial supported by the National, Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health. This was the first trial to rigorously examine the safety and potential benefits of extending the timing of stem cell delivery to 2-3 weeks following a heart attack. While the treatment was found to be safe, the BMCs did not improve heart function six months after their administration. However, study participants will continue to be evaluated for two years, so the BMC therapy may yet demonstrate health benefits such as a lower risk of subsequent heart attacks or heart failure. [ScienceDaily, Nov. 16, 2011]
“Stem cells and the heart” CCTRN investigators and specialists on stem cells and heart research talk about new ways to repair hearts and prevent future heart problems. [Morning Show with Carrie Miller]