This was a great article from the Mayo Clinics online research magazine:
A groundbreaking study on repairing damaged heart tissue through stem cell therapy has given patients hope that they may again live active lives. An international team of Mayo Clinic researchers and collaborators has done it by discovering a way to regenerate heart tissue.
Andre Terzic, M.D., Ph.D., is the Michael S. and Mary Sue Shannon Family Director, Center for Regenerative Medicine, and the Marriott Family Professor of Cardiovascular Diseases Research at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.
Miroslav Dlacic's heart attack changed his life drastically — and seemingly forever. His damaged heart made him too tired to work in his garden or to spend much time at his leather-accessories workshop in Belgrade, Serbia. Like many patients with heart problems, Dlacic, who is 71, thought he would live his remaining years in a weakened condition.
Then, a groundbreaking Mayo Clinic trial of stem cell therapy to repair damaged heart tissue changed his life again — this time for the better.
Dlacic agreed to participate in the Mayo Clinic stem cell trial through the hospital in Serbia where he is treated. Two years later, Dlacic is able to walk again without becoming worn out.
"I am more active, more peppy," he says. "I feel quite well."
"It's a paradigm shift," says Andre Terzic, M.D., Ph.D., director of Mayo Clinic's Center for Regenerative Medicine and senior investigator of the stem cell trial. "We are moving from traditional medicine, which addresses the symptoms of disease, to being legitimately able to cure disease."
For decades, treating patients with cardiac disease has typically involved managing heart damage with medication. It's a bit like driving a car without fixing a sluggish engine — you manage the consequences as best you can and learn to live with them.
But in collaboration with European researchers, Mayo Clinic researchers have discovered a novel way to repair a damaged heart — to actually fix the machine.
In Mayo Clinic's breakthrough process, stem cells are harvested from a patient's bone marrow. The stem cells undergo a laboratory treatment that guides them into becoming cardiac cells. The treated cells are then injected into the patient's heart in an effort to grow healthy heart tissue.
The study is the first successful demonstration in people of the feasibility and safety of transforming adult stem cells into cardiac cells, Dr. Terzic says.
This discovery could have implications for millions of people. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. In the U.S. alone, about 5.8 million people have heart failure, and the number is growing, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Beyond heart failure, the Mayo Clinic research also is a milestone in the emerging field of regenerative medicine, which seeks to go beyond palliative treatment to fully heal damaged tissue and organs.
Creating a heart repair kit
This image shows the process used in the clinical trials to repair damaged hearts. Cardioprogenitor cells is another term for cardiopoietic cells, those that were transformed into cardiac cells.