Stem Cells Study Shows Potential for Healing Damaged Heart Muscle

Can Stem Cell Therapy Help Heart Failure?

A Japanese study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association in April shows promise that stem cells taken from the thigh of a heart failure patient could be a new way to treat heart failure.

Researchers on the project performed at Osaka University have used the stem cells found in the muscle tissue of the thigh to create a patch to repair damaged heart muscle. This is extremely exciting news for physicians and stem cell researchers around the world, as cardiac tissue does not easily regenerate if it regenerates at all.

As part of the project, the Japanese scientists isolated the stem cells from the rest of the tissue and organized them into a 4-cm patch. They glued this stem cell patch to damaged areas on the hearts of 27 study participants to help regenerate cells and boost performance in surrounding tissue.

What Do Growth Factors Do?

The growth factors contained in the patch’s stem cells encourage the repair of damaged heart tissue. Growth factors are powerful chemical messages that tell nearby stem cells, which lay dormant until needed, to start regenerating as part of the repair and healing process. Growth factors also tell the body to increase blood and nutrient flow to the repair site and control inflammation.

What is Heart Failure?

Heart failure is a progressive condition in which the heart is unable to pump enough blood through the body. Blood provides oxygen and other nutrients necessary to keep the tissues and organs of the body alive. There are 5.7 million people in the United States with heart failure, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Half of the people diagnosed with heart failure die within 5 years, according to the Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention. It is caused by heart disease and high blood pressure, as well as other health conditions like diabetes. Lifestyle choices, like smoking or a poor diet, can also cause the condition to develop.

Treatment Options for Heart Failure

Many current treatments for heart failure usually address the symptoms of the condition. These often include lifestyle changes and medications to reduce high cholesterol and high blood pressure, two factors that strain the heart. Some patients also require invasive surgical procedures to clear blockages and place stents to improve blood flow and reduce heart strain.

Stem cells have been used to successfully treat many medical conditions that have not responded to other treatments. Stem cells have powerful healing potential because of their ability to regenerate injured, damaged, and diseased tissue.

Johnson is a Dallas, Texas, physician who uses stem cells found in adipose fat tissue to treat patients for health conditions that have been unresponsive to other treatments.

“Stem cells have the ability to regenerate infinitely, which helps to quickly regrow tissue to replace what has been damaged,” said Dr. Bill Johnson, M.D.

COPD can lead to Heart Failure

Adipose fat stem cells and the stem cells that make up the muscle tissue of the thigh are both mesenchymal stem cells. Mesenchymal stem cells make up the connective tissue of the body, the bones, and the nervous and circulatory systems.

One of these conditions is chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, or COPD, which can lead to heart failure in many patients. Johnson takes adult stem cells from the fat tissue of his COPD patients and reintroduces them back into the patient intravenously and through a nebulizer, which allows the patient to inhale the cells directly into the lungs.

“Once deployed, the stem cells go to work repairing damaged tissue,” Johnson said.

The cost to treat heart failure disease totals over 30 billion dollars per year, making it one of the costliest medical conditions in the United States.