The heart is an amazing device in itself but has one major drawback: once damaged, it has a limited ability to repair itself. So, calling the use of your own cells to repair damaged heart tissue groundbreaking is an understatement!
However, Dr. Warren Sherman, MD, FACC, FSCAI Director, Cardiac Cell-Based Endovascular Therapies Center for Interventional Vascular Therapy, Columbia University Medical Center, is a leading authority on autologous cell therapy and explained its potential to me. He stated, Were looking at cell therapy for the treatment of heart muscle disease after its been damaged, meaning weeks, months, or years after its been damaged. For patients with congestive heart failure, the impact could be huge.
Autologous cell therapy is a process that uses a patients own cells to repair the damaged myocardium and consists of several steps. The first step involves obtaining adult stem cells through a muscle biopsy of the patient’s thigh. Next, the cells are cultured in a lab to separate immature cells; finally, millions of cells are implanted in the heart tissue by either an open or percutaneous, minimally invasive procedure using the femoral artery.
There have been multiple clinical trials focused on when and where in the heart tissue to deliver the cell therapy. These studies have shown that the timing of cell delivery after AMI (acute myocardial infarction) may be one of the most important criteria in determining the efficacy of the therapy. When delivering in a one to seven day time frame, patients experienced LVEF (left ventricular ejection fraction) improvement by 6 to 9%. Delivery of the cells up to three months after a MI enabled a 3 to 5% improved LVEF.
Considering what it takes to treat the 5 million Americans suffering from congestive heart failure, this could be nothing short of revolutionary. Over 300,000 patients per year will never fully recover from a heart attack, and the Business Group on Health reports that the average cost of treating these patients starts at $1 million. The routine use of autologous cell therapy is still several years away, but its potential impact already has people excited.