Heart Hospital begins experimental cell therapy

Physicians at the Heart Hospital became the first team in the UK to treat a patient with an experimental new therapy designed to repair damage to cardiac muscle resulting from a heart attack. If successful, this treatment would give doctors the ability to improve the hearts of people with heart failure, rather than just treating the symptoms.

Known as autologous cell therapy, the technique under investigation involves injecting a patient's own muscle cells -- called myoblasts, which are different from stem cells -- into damaged regions of the heart during a coronary artery bypass operation. These cells are obtained several weeks in advance from the patient's leg during a biopsy and then cultured in a laboratory prior to injection into the heart muscle.

Nearly all patients who survive a significant heart attack progress to heart failure, which is a usually incurable condition that affects an estimated 22 million individuals worldwide and 4.4 million Europeans, including 900,000 in the UK.

"We are very excited to be part of this important clinical trial," said The Heart Hospital's William McKenna, Professor of Cardiology at University College London and the MAGIC Trial's principal investigator in the UK. "If we are able to reverse the damage done to cardiac muscle following a heart attack, or to safely halt a patient's further progression of heart failure, this would be a revolutionary advance in the treatment of heart disease."

This particular cardiac cell therapy is being studied at four UK sites -- University College London's Heart Hospital; King's College Hospital, also in London; Papworth Hospital in Cambridge; and Southampton General Hospital in Hampshire -- as part of a Phase 2 clinical trial taking place at more than a dozen hospitals in Europe and North America. Called the MAGIC (Myoblast Autologous Graft in Ischemic Cardiomyopathy) Trial, this multicentre clinical study seeks to test cardiac cell therapy in up to 300 patients and is believed to be the largest and most advanced of its kind ever conducted.

The MAGIC Trial builds upon the work of French cardiac surgeon Professor Philippe Menasché of Hôpital Européen Georges Pompidou in Paris, who was among the first clinicians in the world to test whether autologous cell therapy could be used either to stop or reverse the damage done to cardiac muscle by a heart attack. Having enrolled patients in France, Belgium, Germany and now the UK, the MAGIC Trial is set to expand in the coming months to sites in Italy and Switzerland.

Conducted by MG Biotherapeutics, a joint venture of Genzyme Corp. and Medtronic, Inc., it has received additional funding from Assistance Publique - Hôpitaux de Paris. MG Biotherapeutics is working to develop novel therapies that combine biologics and delivery devices to treat advanced cardiovascular disease.

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