When a person has surgery, scar tissue forms where the incision was made. The same process occurs when a person has a heart attack. The resulting scar tissue is tougher than normal heart muscle and has less access to oxygen, which means it will not contract or pump as well. That means a decrease in heart function.
Of course, how much or little depends on the size of the scar tissue. But what if there were a way to take stem cells from a person’s heart as part of the surgical process and reinsert them into the heart after it has begun to heal? Could the stem cells help lessen the amount of scar tissue and help the heart regenerate healthy muscle?
That’s what our doctors are going to test in the world’s first phase-one Food and Drug Administration-approved clinical trial using adult cardiac stem cells to treat heart disease. Patients with advanced heart disease who are undergoing bypass surgery anyway will take part in the trial. Under the leadership of Roberto Bolli, Jewish Hospital Heart and Lung Institute Distinguished Chair in Cardiology, physicians will insert the patients’ own stem cells into their hearts three months after surgery. Then they will evaluate the patients’ heart function and blood flow over the next year or more to determine the impact of the stem cells on heart recovery.
The implications of what might be possible with such treatment are profound for people who undergo heart surgery and for those who have a heart attack.
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