U of L team: Cardiac stem cells safe, effective in heart failure treatment
A team of researchers, led by the University of Louisville's Dr. Roberto Bolli and Dr. Piero Anversa of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, reported Monday preliminary findings demonstrating that providing heart failure patients adult stem cell transfusions is safe and effective at improving heart function through regenerating heart muscle.
Bolli, director of the Institute of Molecular Cardiology and chief of the Division of Cardiology at the University of Louisville, presented the study at the American Heart Association annual meeting in Chicago.
The study is a joint project between Bolli's team in Louisville and Anversa's laboratory in Boston.
"These results suggest that in patients with heart failure secondary to coronary artery disease, infusion of autologous cardiac stem cells improves systolic function and functional capacity," Bolli said. "The ultimate goal of this therapy is to reverse the progression of cardiomyopathy by regenerating heart muscle."
The investigators harvest c-kit positive cardiac stem cells from patients during coronary artery bypass surgery at Louisville's Jewish Hospital in Louisville. The stem cells are purified in Anversa's lab from other heart tissue cells and allowed to grow.
Once ready, the stem cells are reintroduced into the scarred region of the heart by Bolli's team using a minimally invasive technique.
"This is cutting-edge research that may lead to innovative treatments for patients with heart disease, and represents a wonderful example of the world-class research performed by faculty at the U of L Department of Medicine," Dr. Jesse Roman, Chairman of the Department of Medicine said. "Dr. Bolli's group is a pioneer in this field and we are delighted that he is part of our program."
To date, 16 patients have received the stem cell infusion from U of L physicians who perform the procedure at Jewish Hospital in Louisville.
"The initial results are very encouraging," Bolli said. "For the nine patients of whom we have information four months after receiving infusion of stem cells, their left ventricular function increased by an average of 9 percent. With drug-coated stents implanted after a heart attack, we see an increase of between 4 and 5 percent."
Bolli noted that in the three patients infused more than a year ago, the increase in heart function has been maintained.
He also reiterated that these findings are preliminary and larger-scale studies must be undertaken before the therapy can be widely used.