Stem Cell Therapy: The Next Advancement for Treating Heart Disease

As an interventional cardiologist for the past 25 years, I have had the opportunity to treat patients with coronary heart disease through the advancements of percutaneous balloon angioplasty and intracoronary stent placement. These therapies, along with coronary artery bypass surgery, remain vital options for revascularization of stenotic or occluded coronary epicardial arteries. It is my belief that the science of stem cell therapy will be the next great advancement in improving myocardial performance and reducing the symptoms, mortality and expense of congestive heart failure. I am optimistic of its future.

Over the last decade, research into the mechanisms of stem cell biology, angiogenesis and tissue healing has led to significant advances in our knowledge but has also raised even more questions. The difference between myocardial cell injury immediately following acute myocardial infarction versus the damage present in patients with chronic congestive heart failure is an ongoing area of interest. Based on current research, there are strong signals for significant clinical improvement following stem cell therapy in both of these patient populations. Much work remains to be done to identify the most effective cell line and delivery methods. The future for regenerative medicine holds great promise in many areas of medicine, including cardiovascular diseases. We look forward to contributing to the growth of this important scientific endeavor.

The efficacy of stem cell therapy for heart disease patients has been a prime focus in research trials, to date. The safe delivery of stem cells via a number of different methods (intracardiac, intracoronary, intravenous or retrograde methods) have all undergone evaluation. Unfortunately, research trials have included only small numbers of patients in each study due to the randomized structure of the trials. At Okyanos, our cell therapy treatment will be delivered by intramyocardial injection, which has been the route studied most extensively. As cell lines receive regulatory approval, we hope to construct a detailed patient registry which will overcome some of the limitations of randomization and provide answers to more of the details surrounding questions of efficacy and safety.

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