Cardiac stem cells reverse heart damage

Dr. Roberto Bolli
Dr. Roberto Bolli

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A cure for heart disease is one major step closer to reality. At the annual conference of the American Heart Association, Dr. Roberto Bolli of the University of Louisville is a VIP. The Phase I study results of Bolli's heart treatment using a patient's own stem cells are announced with triple the results that were projected.

At one year post stem cell treatment, the measured heart function of study patients made on average a 12 point jump.

"This could be a revolution in cardiovascular medicine," said Bolli. "What we are seeing in the first 16 patients is a striking improvement in heart function."

The Phase I study started in 2009 when he teamed up with Jewish Hospital. Surgeons there remove a small piece of healthy heart tissue during a routine bypass procedure on the study patient. The tissue is then sent to Harvard Medical School where the stem cells are harvested and grown, to eventually be re-injected back into the patient's heart. Bolli said there is no chance for rejection of the cells because they are the patient's own cells. There was also another positive result.

"The ejection fraction which is the standard measure of the pumping ability of the heart increases by 12 points at one year after stem cells," Bolli said.

According to Bolli, a normal, healthy heart has an ejection fraction that exceeds 50%. The patients in the study started out with an ejection fraction around 20 points lower than normal.

"So this is very exciting, if these finding are confirmed by the next larger study that we are starting, this would be the biggest revolution in cardiovascular medicine in my lifetime."

Plans are underway for a Phase II study that would include up to 20 centers across the country enrolling hundreds of patients.

Copyright 2011 WAVE News. All rights reserved.