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Health Information Mending a Broken Heart

Rush cardiologists are hoping that transplanted stem cells can regenerate damaged heart muscle in those who experience a first heart attack. The study involves an intravenous infusion of adult stem cells from healthy donor bone marrow that might reverse damage to heart tissue.

A unique benefit of the stem cell product is that it is given to patients through a standard IV line. Other therapies require delivery to the site of the disease through catheterization or open surgical procedures, but this one is very simple and easy for the patient.

"A person who has had a single, severe heart attack may survive but can be left with substantial damage to the heart muscle as a result of the blood supply to the heart muscle being cut off during the heart attack," says cardiologist Gary Schaer, MD, head of the Rush Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory. "The damaged muscle inhibits the heart's overall ability to pump blood, leading to heart failure."

Congestive heart failure is a common outcome for people who have experienced a heart attack. It is the number one cause of disability in the United States.

Rush is the only center in Illinois participating in the trial. There are 15 other sites nationwide participating in the study.

Schaer explained that mesenchymal stem cells (MSC), found in the adult bone marrow, have the potential to develop into mature heart cells and new blood vessels. "The MSC cells are derived from normal, healthy adult volunteer bone marrow donors and are not derived from a fetus, embryo or animal," Schaer notes.

Adult stem cells are designed by nature to perform tissue repair in a mature adult. It is believed that these cells can be used in patients unrelated to the donor, without rejection. This eliminates the need for donor matching and recipient immune suppression. Once transplanted, the cells promote healing of damaged or diseased tissues.

This is a Phase I study, where two-thirds of the participants will receive the stem cells and one-third will receive a placebo. The total time commitment for the study is two years.

To be eligible for the trial, patients must have experienced a first heart attack within the past seven days, and be between 21 and 85 years old. Patients are given a pulmonary breathing test, a CT scan and an MRI before the procedure. Patients undergo an MRI at the end of the study to see how much of the diseased heart muscle has been repaired and measure heart function.

For more information on the study, please call (888) 352-7874.


More Information at Your Fingertips:

  • For more information about heart care at Rush visit our Heart and Vascular Services home page.
     
  • Looking for more patient-friendly information on the heart? Visit our Heart Center home page.
     
  • Looking for a doctor? Call toll free: 888 352-RUSH (7874)

Please note: All physicians featured in Discover Rush Online are on the medical faculty of Rush University Medical Center. Some of the physicians featured are in private practice and, as independent practitioners, are not agents or employees of Rush University Medical Center.

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