Stem cell injection to heart shows promise
Procedure that worked on Montreal man a possible alternative to transplants
Last Updated: Tuesday, April 13, 2010 | 6:05 PM ET
Injecting stem cells into a Montreal man's heart seems to have helped heal the organ, say researchers investigating the experimental procedure.
The case is part of the first study in Canada to evaluate the safety and feasibility of injecting different stem cells into heart patients.
Patients who have a coronary artery bypass have blood coming back to the heart, but the problem is, there's nothing to generate the heart muscle, said Dr. Nicolas Noiseux, cardiac surgeon at the University of Montreal Hospital Centre and principal investigator in the study.
"This is why we want to have the stem cells plus the bypass in order to improve cardiac repair and cardiac function," Noiseux said.
Researchers used bone marrow from the man's hip to isolate stem cells, which were purified and enriched in the lab, and then injected directly into his failing heart through a catheter.
Jean-Paul Tremblay, a 59-year-old construction worker, is believed to be the first patient in Canada to have his heart injected with his own stem cells during open-heart bypass surgery for chronic heart failure, Noiseux said.
Heart transplant alternative?
Before the double bypass and stem cell injection, Tremblay said he could barely walk and had no energy. Sitting on the edge of his hospital bed Tuesday, Tremblay said he doesn't feel tired and is ready to go for a walk.
"I'm in near perfect shape," Tremblay said in French.
Doctors have noticed improvements in the heart's capacity to contract, which has improved its ability to pump blood.
The new procedure is less invasive and less expensive than heart transplant, the only treatment currently available for patients with severe heart failure, the hospital said.
Until now, no Canadian research team had performed such a complete treatment process, the hospital said. The process involved:
- Harvesting stem cells from bone marrow
- Sending the cells to Dr. Denis Claude Roy at Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital to isolate the most immature stem cells.
- Injecting the stem cells directly into the heart muscle.
- Using cutting-edge imaging techniques to see whether the stem cells are working.
The researchers plan to recruit 20 patients throughout Quebec for the first phase of the study, which will examine heart muscle failure caused by coronary artery disease.
Researchers at Toronto General Hospital also plan to participate in the trial.
If the collaborative research shows the stem cells are regenerative, doctors would have a new tool to help patients facing end-stage heart failure, said cardiac surgeon Dr. Richard Weisel, director of the Toronto General Research Institute.
The Toronto team is waiting for approval to conduct the research using a new-generation device to separate stem cells before they start recruiting patients.With files from The Canadian Press
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