By Hilary White

LOS ANGELES, June 30, 2009 ( – Doctors at Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles have announced the successful completion of the first human trials in growing new heart tissue from adult cardiac stem cells, which the researchers hope will be successful in repairing damage due to heart attacks.

In a cutting edge procedure the patient's own heart tissue is used to grow specialized heart stem cells that are then injected back into the patient. The first patient to actually receive the infusion of cells is heart attack victim Ken Milles, who underwent the procedure on Friday.

Milles is part of a 24-patient clinical trial that is the first test in using adult stem cells from a patient's own heart to attempt to heal injured heart muscle.

Dr. Eduardo Marbán, director of the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute who developed the technique, said, “Five years ago, we didn't even know the heart had its own distinct type of stem cells. Now we are exploring how to harness such stem cells to help patients heal their own damaged hearts.”

“We seek to actually reverse the injury that has been caused by the heart attack, by re-growing new heart muscle to at least partially replace the scar that's formed.”

Healthy heart cells are collected from the patients and coaxed to form up to 25,000,000 stem cells. These cells then create complex cardiospheres which can actually start beating in the lab. The doctors inject these back into the patients and expect to report results within six months. 

The Cedars-Sinai treatment follows years of work in using adult stem cells from various parts of the body to treat heart tissue damage. In the UK in 2006, researchers reported that a procedure that was introduced at University College London Hospital in which patients suffering a heart attack will undergo regular treatment of an angioplasty, followed by an injection of stem cells harvested from the bone marrow to help re-grow damaged tissue.

In 2007, Rush University Medical Center reported on the development of Provacel, an intravenous preparation of adult stem cells that has been shown in preclinical animal models to prevent scar formation in the area of the heart after heart attacks.

Read related coverage:

Adult Stem Cells Used to Treat Emergency Heart Attack Patients


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