Drexel docs fixing hearts with stem cells

March 16, 2010 2:43:50 PM PDT

Researchers at Drexel University College of Medicine are testing stem cells, to see if they can help a heart repair itself after a heart attack.

When a heart attack occurs, part of the muscle is destroyed, and is replaced by scar tissue.

And it doesn't always take a big heart attack to do it.

Dr. Howard Eisen, the study leader, says, " A person can have a relatively small heart attack, and then a year or 2 later, because the scar stretches, their heart can be much, much larger - and weaker. It's a very common cause of heart failure."

The project doesn't use the controversial embryonic stem cells, but a formulation of adult stem cells created by Osiris, a biotech company.

Those cells can still grow into many specialized cells, though not as many types as embryonic stem cells.

It has to be given within 7 days of a person's first heart attack. And that attack can' be too mild, or too severe.

Unlike previous tests, where compounds were injected directly into the heart, Dr. Howard Eisen says these cells are being given by I-V, into the bloodstream.

Dr. Eisen says, "There is evidence that damaged heart tissue produces molecular signals that let at least some of the stem cells come into the heart."

He says the body naturally produces some of healing cells, though not enough.

It's hoped this high-dose infusion will provide more healing power.

Dr. Eisen says that in earlier tests, patients getting stem cells had better heart function, and fewer irregular rhythms - a common complication after heart attacks.

Interested patients should have their doctors contact Dr. Eisen's team at The Center for Advanced Heart Failure Care at Hahnemann University Hospital - Phone: 215-762-4200