People suffering from irreversible heart disease, as many as 40 million patients globally, may have new hope after a breakthrough in stem cell treatment.
The trial, which followed 11 patients suffering with heart failure, was published in the Journal of Cardiovascular Translation Research after remarkable success in halting heart failure.
The research showed that heart failure, most commonly caused by ischemic cardiomyopathy according to the study, could be reversed by grafting stem cells on to damaged heart tissue.
During trials the surgical team grafted stem cells in situ on to scarred muscle during coronary artery bypass surgery and the stem cells then regenerated healthy growth.
The precursor cells were tested on patients who had heart failure that was considered to be permanent.
Heart failure of this degree has a 70% annual mortality rate but 36 months after treatment all of the patients are alive and have had no readmissions for cardiac-related reasons.
The results showed a 40% reduction in the size of scar tissue on an individual heart, indicating that the stem cells have a positive and measurable impact short-term.
Current guidelines from The British Heart Foundation say that that heart failure is not curable and can only be managed by prescription medication and lifestyle changes.
Commenting on the new trial, the BHF remain cautious, due to the small sample size: “But we do believe this kind of treatment could ultimately radically improve heart failure care – we’re funding millions of pounds of research in this area.”
Professor Jeremy Pearson, the Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation (BHF), told The Huffington Post UK: “This very small study suggests that targeted injection into the heart of carefully prepared cells from a healthy donor during bypass surgery, is safe.”
“It is difficult to be sure that the cells had a beneficial effect because all patients were undergoing bypass surgery at the same time, which would usually improve heart function,” added Pearson.
“A controlled trial with substantially more patients is needed to determine whether injection of these types of cells proves any more effective than previous attempts to improve heart function in this way, which have so far largely failed.”