Doctors at Emory University, in clinical studies with heart attack patients, are continuing to learn more about how those patients' own bone marrow stem cells (progenitor cells) may be used to improve heart function.
The Emory researchers are harvesting cells from the bone marrow, and then separating those cells to obtain an enriched stem cell population that can improve circulation around the damaged heart muscle.
The study investigators, Emory cardiologist Arshed Quyyumi, MD, and hematologist/oncologist Edmund Waller, MD, PhD, reported findings on the study's progress at the American Society of Hematology meeting in Atlanta.
"This is one of the first trials where patients receive varying doses of a cell population that is enriched for progenitor cells," says Dr. Waller, director of Emory's Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplant Center in the Emory Winship Cancer Institute.
Several groups of researchers around the world have reported clinical trials in which stem cells are used to try to restore the heart's pumping power, with mixed results.
Dr. Waller's focus is on the safety and feasibility of harvesting the bone marrow cells and the migration of stem cells in response to SDF-1, a signaling molecule released by damaged tissue that is believed to help guide the stem cells to sites where tissue repair is needed.
The clinical trial, which began in July 2006, has progressed halfway through the four planned groups of patients (40 total) who receive different amounts of sorted cells.
The magnetic sorting process, performed by Progenitor Cell Therapeutics, enriches for progenitor cells that doctors believe are able to help repair cardiac muscle.
In the clinical trial, patients receive the standard of care for their condition, including cardiac catheterization, angioplasty and implantation of a stent in the blocked artery. During catheterization, the bone marrow cells are introduced into the coronary artery where a blockage caused the patient's heart attack. To guide the bone marrow cells to the critical area, a balloon is inflated around the catheter, temporarily sealing off the artery from the rest of the circulation.
Participants are followed closely for the first year, and then at regular intervals over a five-year period.
The study is funded by biotech company Amorcyte. Drs. Waller and Quyumi are paid consultants to Amorycyte.
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