Stem Cell Breakthrough

Houston doctors say they have a new breakthrough in the field of stem cell research. Samples from a patient's heart show a new treatment using adult stem cells may lead to new tissue growth.

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Two Houston doctors are the principal investigators in a clinical trial that was conducted several years ago in Brazil. That trial studied the effects on heart failure patients when the patient's own bone marrow stem cells were injected into damaged areas of the heart. The study showed improvement in their health, but now new information is available after one of the patients died of an unrelated illness. Dr. Emerson Perin is the medical director of the Stem Cell Center at the Texas Heart Institute. He says he analyzed the heart of the patient that underwent the stem cell treatment and found an increased number of blood vessels in the treated area.

Regeneration of tissue through the use of stem cells is a controversial concept in medical circles, but Perin says they have unequivocal proof of blood flow and tissue growth in a heart that was once on the verge of total failure. Dr. James Willerson is the president-elect of the Texas Heart Institute and the president of the U.T. Health Science Center. He says at this point every result of the study is encouraging.

A new trial is now underway in Houston to further test the effects of adult stem cells in the failing heart. There are currently 20 patients receiving the treatment and another four will be added. More trials will begin over the course of the next year and Perin says if the safety and efficacy bear out stem cell treatment could be available to the general public within three or four years.

Perin and Willerson are still looking for participants in the heart failure studies. For more information email stemcell@heart.thi.tmc.edu or call 832-355-6555

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