Doctors are using patients' own bone marrow stem cells (progenitor cells) to treat the damage to cardiac muscle after a heart attack in a study at Emory University School of Medicine.
The study investigators--Emory cardiologist Arshed Quyyumi, MD, and hematologist/oncologist Edmund Waller, MD--will update their colleagues on its progress at the American Society of Hematology meeting in Atlanta next week.
"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 says his team plans to present information 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.
The patients are followed closely for the first year and then at regular intervals over a five-year period.