Two articles of interest showed up today, both relating to the use of stem cells (embryonic and adult) in the repair of damage caused by heart disease.
Researcher and graduate student Atta Behfar from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., explained embryonic stem cells are an emerging source for treatment of diseased hearts. However, implanting stem cells into the heart has been thought to carry risks for uncontrolled growth of the stem cells on host tissue in the heart muscle.
Integration of stem cells into the middle muscle of the heart was associated with normalized structure, replenished interior wall, little scarring, and fewer signs of the death of heart tissue. In contrast, placebo-treated infarcted hearts did not show these benefits and showed a decline in the function and health of the heart.
Behfar concludes that embryonic stem cells can contribute to a stable beneficial outcome on the function and remodeling of the heart after a heart attack. To avoid production of tumors from over-proliferation of the stem cells, he says the number of stem cells delivered needs to be limited.
Various small studies have suggested stem cells taken from a patient's bone marrow and injected into the heart can repair the damage from heart disease.
Doctors at Barts and The London NHS Trust are setting up a four-year research programme involving 600 patients but, like many experts involved in stem cell research in the UK, they are struggling to raise the money.
Dr Anthony Mathur, a consultant cardiologist at the trust, said: "This is a potentially revolutionary treatment for heart disease. It could transform the lives of people living with this debilitating condition. ... But the problem we face is raising the money. Charities find it quite hard to commit large sums of money to one project."
And he added industry was not that interested in funding research such as his as using the body's own cells in the way the trust is doing makes it hard to get a patent.