Trial To Test Stem Cells For Heart Attacks
Associated Press: Monday, July 25
Stem cell research has always been controversial in the United States. President Bush has set many regulations on the use of stem cells. The government funds stem cell research very poorly, so many private institutions have recently started funding their own research programs. Such is the case with John Hopkins University, in its study to see if treating heart attacks with stem cells is safe.
This therapy was developed after a study on pigs where stem cells were used to treat heart attacks. In pigs, the bone marrow stem cells from another pig were injected into a pig's damaged heart. The stem cells helped restore heart function, and to repair fifty to seventy-five percent of heart muscle. The researchers studied fourteen animals that had had heart attacks. Seven were given stem cell therapy and seven weren't. The seven pigs that were treated with stem cells had their heart muscle return almost to the way it was before the heart attack, and the scar tissue disappeared. In the other seven pigs, the condition worsened. Such studies show that stem cells hold potential to be therapeutic.
Two patients have already been admitted into John Hopkins Hospital, and a total of forty-eight people are expected to participate in the program. The stem cells are taken from adult bone marrow, and are called mesenchymal cells. These cells have shown to give rise to many different types of cells, though not as many as embryonic cells. However, using bone marrow cells avoids the controversy of taking cells from a human embryo. The doctors are first proceeding with phase one, which is essentially just seeing if stem cells are safe for humans. Once the stem cell treatment is determined to be safe, the doctors will see if the treatment is as effective in humans as it is in pigs. The study will be ongoing for two years, and the patients will receive an MRI to check progress every six months.
This new stem cell treatment is very innovative. If it is as effective in humans as it is in pigs, then it could be a huge advancement in medical technology. Stem cells may be able to treat cancer, or fight AIDS. Along with the new technology that is being formed to create stem cells, these processes could potentially save many lives.