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Bone Marrow Stem Cells Benefit Patients With Chronic Heart Failure


The European Society of Cardiology has released results from the STAR-heart study at the ESC Congress 2010 meeting taking place this week in Stockholm. The study found that bone marrow stem cell therapy improves ventricular performance, quality of life, and survival in patients with chronic heart failure.

Heart Failure is Only Major Cardiovascular Disorder on the Rise

According to background material provided by the ESC, heart failure is one of the most common reasons for acute hospital admissions and is the only major cardiovascular disorder on the rise. About 30 million people in Europe have heart failure, a progressive condition in which the heart’s muscle becomes weakened after an injury (such as a heart attack or high blood pressure) and gradually loses the ability to pump enough blood to supply the body’s needs.

Read: Structured Home Monitoring System Improves Outcome for Heart Failure Patients

The STAR-heart study followed 391 patients with chronic heart failure as a result of ischemic heart disease following myocardial infarction (heart attack). Left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) - the ability of the heart to pump blood from the left ventricle - was 35% or less. 191 of the patients agreed to intracoronary bone marrow stem cell therapy.

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The bone marrow was taken from the top of the pelvic bone, an area called the iliac crest. The cells were infused into the infarct-related artery via an angioplasty balloon catheter. The patients were followed for five years and found to have a significant improvement in LVEF, cardiac index, exercise capacity, oxygen uptake, and LV contractility.

Read: How to Be a Bone Marrow Donor

There was also a significant decrease in long-term mortality in the stem-cell treated group compared with the control group. Bodo-Eckehard Strauer of Heinrich Heine University in Dusseldorf, Germany, lead author of the study, said the reason for the mortality reduction is likely due to a decrease in pump failure and decrease in severe cardiac arrhythmias.

Dr. Francisco Fernandez-Aviles MD PhD noted that the study did have limitations in that it was not randomized or blinded, however, “it is the largest trial comparing bone marrow cells versus optimal conventional therapy in patients with heart failure due to healed myocardial infarction.”

Source reference:
Strauer B-E "The STAR Heart Study: the acute and long-term effect of intracoronary stem cell transplantation in 191 patients with chronic heart failure" ESC 2010; Abstract 381.

For more on bone marrow stem cell research, please read:
Stem Cell Transplant Helps Repair Skin in Rare Disease
Bone Marrow Stem Cells are Useful for Spinal Cord Injury



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