Stem cell pioneer  pg. 2

“Heart failure has a huge financial impact on our medical system,” added Scott Phillips, M.D., a cardiology fellow who is participating in the Vanderbilt study. “… If this proves to be a viable therapy, there would be tremendous benefits, not only for the patient, but in terms of the amount of money a health care system could save. It would be astronomical.”

The premise behind cardiac regenerative therapy is this: Bone marrow is rich in endothelial progenitor cells, which circulate in the blood and are thought to facilitate the growth of new blood vessels. European scientists for several years have pioneered approaches aimed at using these primitive or “stem” cells to try to repair heart damage.

“This treatment approach looks very promising based on preliminary results already published,” said Friedrich Schuening, M.D., chief of the Section of Hematology and Stem Cell Transplant at Vanderbilt.

The Amorcyte trial is enrolling patients with evidence of impaired heart function following a heart attack. Half of the participants in the study will receive a stem cell infusion, while the others will serve as a control, and will receive standard treatment.

They will be followed regularly for up to five years. Assessment tools, aside from a clinical visit, will include echocardiograms (EKGs) and cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which can reveal in detail the ventricular structure and function of the heart.

Within three to six months, investigators expect to see some improvement in heart function.

“This is an exciting opportunity to get into the field of regenerative medicine of the heart,” said Douglas Vaughan, M.D., former chief of Cardiovascular Medicine at Vanderbilt.

“We don't have all the answers about cardiac cell-therapy, but we do know that we have to start doing these trials to start finding the answers to the questions.”

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