Stem Cell Injection from Fat could Reduce Heart Attack Damage

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
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Acute heart attack treatment, using stem cells taken from the belly, shows promise for boosting heart function, minimizing the amount of damage to heart tissue and improving blood flow. Researchers say the procedure is safe and takes about ten minutes to compete.

Heart Attack Damage Minimized with Ten Minute Stem Cell Infusion

For the study, researchers liposuctioned 200-250 cubic centimeters of fat from the belly of participants, Using a system called Celution 800 device (Cytori Tx), finding muscle damage from heart attack was reduced from 31.6 percent to 15.4 percent; compared to a placebo group.

The research, called the APOLLO study (A Randomized Clinical Trial of AdiPOse-Derived Stem ceLLs in the Treatment of Patients With ST-Elevation myOcardial Infarction) included eleven men and three women. Ten patients received stem cell and four were given placebo. Patients in the APOLLO study received stem cells directly into the heart muscle within 24 hours after cardiac catheterization. All of the patients had experienced severe heart attack.

After heart attack, the stem cell group experienced a boost in heart function, better blood flow and less damage to the heart. Perfusion increased 3.5 percent the amount of blood (ejection fraction) pumped during each heartbeat increased 5.7 percent at six months.The scientists were able to obtain 20 million regenerative stem cells from belly fat that took nine to ten minutes to infuse.

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"The study suggests that these cells can be safely obtained and infused inside the hearts of patients following an acute heart attack," said Eric (HJ) Duckers, M.D., Ph.D., lead author of the small study and head of Molecular Cardiology Laboratory at the Thoraxcenter, Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam, Netherlands. He adds, although the patients were European, “findings in the European Union population should be directly applicable to the United States population, but, it's unclear whether the results would apply to non-Caucasians."

The findings were statistically insignificant due to the small study size, but the researchers have initiated a Phase II-III clinical trial to include 375 patients at 35 medical centers in the European Union. The trial will focus on patients with ejection fraction less than 45 percent. Forty percent enrolled will receive 30 million stems cells, 40 percent 20 million and 20 percent of patients will receive placebo.

"The primary efficacy endpoint of ADVANCE will be absolute improvement in infarct size at six months follow-up," Duckers said. "Several studies have shown that this is an excellent and more consistent predictor of survival and major adverse events (than other endpoints) in patients after an acute heart attack."

The study is the first of its kind showing that a stem cell infusion from fat derived stem cells can improve heart function and blood flow in patients with acute heart attack. In some instances, the cells can be obtained and infused while the original heart catheter is still in place.

Circulation. 2010;122:A12225

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