ASK THE CARDIO TEAM
Stem Cell Therapy
Why is stem cell therapy considered a game changer for heart conditions?
>>DR. MARC PENN: Over the last 20 to 30 years, we’ve become very good at preventing patients from dying. With acute heart attacks, with chronic chest pain through bypass surgery, patients are doing much better with their acute illness and what we’ve generated is a generation of patients who have chronic conditions that we can’t treat. So stem cells offer us the opportunity to not have another drug, per se, that changes the blood pressure, but have cells that change the heart tissue itself to try and get it to beat more effectively and more efficiently so the patients can feel better.
What can adult stem cell therapy do to improve my heart condition?
>>DR. WARREN SHERMAN: Stem cells contain very active biologic proteins, genes, and other molecules that do a number of things for the heart. One, they promote the growth of new vessels. Two, they stimulate the heart into a mode of self-repair because the heart, you have to remember, has stem cells of its own, but they don’t function well.
>> DR. NICOLAS CHRONOS: We believe currently, the state of science, is that the stem cells act as what are called paracrine organs. They actually release a series of growth factors in a coordinated way in an environment to cause the local tissue to start to regenerate. It’s believed that actually the heart muscle has within it early stage cells that can be stimulated, were present and active at birth when we were little, and they sort of become senescent, they go to sleep, and maybe we can rejuvenate them by putting these stem cells in.
What kind of adult stem cells do you use to treat patients?
>> DR. PENN: We use enzyme-derived stromal vascular fraction or SVF. SVF comes from adipose or fat tissue. We isolate the stem cells within the fat tissue including the mesenchymal stem cells and the endothelial progenitor cells, and we treat with that mixture. But unlike a lot of clinics who look at stromal vascular fraction, we use an enzyme-derived product which allows us to free the stem cells from their matrix so they’re not bound up anymore in tissue. This allows the stem cells to be more active and more potent.
How are stem cells injected back into a patient’s body?
>> DR. CHRONOS: We want to get the stem cells local to the heart. So, we use some catheters, and in the current approach, we’re actually going up through a vein, through the right side of the heart into something called the coronary sinus. And then we’re putting the stem cells into that area, and they basically bathe the heart muscle, and therefore, bring all the growth factors to the area that we hope to treat.
When should a patient consider stem cell therapy for a heart condition?
>> DR. SHERMAN: A patient should consider adult stem cell therapy at a point where they are receiving the very best care available, meaning medications, meaning they have undergone bypass surgery or whatever else is available, and yet they’re not feeling well enough. That’s the most common reason that I get calls about this from patients and from doctors.