Stem cells harvested from a patient’s own heart can be used to help repair muscle damaged during a heart attack, according to a preliminary study published online Monday in The Lancet. While it’s too soon to know if the technique will help patients live longer, the study is the second small, promising study of cardiac stem cells in three months.
The new study involved 25 patients who had suffered very serious heart attacks; 24% of their heart’s major pumping chamber had been replaced by scar tissue. One year later, doctors saw no improvement in those randomly assigned to get standard care. Among the 17 given stem cells, however, “we reversed about half the injury to the heart,” said study author Eduardo Marban, director of the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles, in an e-mail. “We dissolved scar and replaced it with living heart muscle.”