Medical research has shown adult stem cells to be angiogenic, meaning they stimulate the growth of new blood vessels. Inadequate blood flow in the heart can develop over time, often caused by blockages in the coronary arteries—a condition known as ischemic heart disease. In a minimally-invasive procedure at Okyanos, stem cells (isolated from patients’ own fat tissue) are delivered directly to the heart via an infusion into the coronary sinus, addressing the need for better blood flow. This treatment further provides other anti-inflammatory, healing and restorative properties to a heart stressed or damaged by ischemia.

What is Ischemia?

The word “ischemia” simply refers to a condition where some portion of the body (in this case, the heart) isn’t receiving enough blood. This insufficient flow causes problems to the area which is in need of receive oxygen-rich blood. Restriction of blood flow to the heart can develop as a result of coronary artery disease, where narrowed or blocked arteries prevent the heart muscle from receiving ample blood/oxygen, which in turn impairs optimal function. Over time, ischemia weakens and causes damage to the heart and can lead to heart failure.

Stem Cell Therapy for Ischemic Heart Disease?

Okyanos treatment targets the damaged  heart tissue and stimulates the growth of new blood vessels through the process of angiogenesis using adult adipose- (fat) derived regenerative cells. Such a process can restore flow to the heart and thus improve patient quality of life. Current medical literature shows that adult stem cell therapy, on which the Okyanos protocol is patterned, is safe and suggests a beneficial effect on patients with ischemic heart disease. Individuals who have thus far received stem cell therapy have experienced:

  • Improved use of oxygen
  • Increased physical strength
  • A reduction in the amount of damaged heart tissue
  • Reduced angina

The above improvements represent key measures of cardiac performance, which lead to decreased symptoms and better heart function.

Signs and Symptoms of Cardiac Ischemia

When ischemia—restricted blood flow to the heart—is present, patients may or may not experience symptoms outside of moments of exertion or high stress. During exercise or even walking up a flight of stairs, the heart requires more oxygen and blood, more rapidly. Blockages in the arteries prevent the heart from receiving a sufficient supply of blood. When this occurs, chest pains (called angina) manifest as the primary symptom of ischemia. Because angina can manifest in a number of different ways than just chest pain, it is important not to discount the following forms of angina as additional signs and symptoms of ischemia:

  • Chest heaviness
  • Tightness  or squeezing behind the breastbone
  • Discomfort in the neck, shoulders, arms or jaw
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea

Modern medicine has afforded us interventional procedures such as medication, stents and angioplasty, each of which aim to improve blood flow to the heart and manage symptoms of ischemia. Such procedures are not always effective for all patients, and symptoms of ischemia may continue to manifest.

To learn more, you may contact a Patient Liaison by requesting a free educational consultation or dialing 855.OKYANOS (659.2667).