You've heard of conventional treatments for heart patients, like stents. They're a Band-Aid compared to a cutting-edge research at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University.
Stem cell therapy is an exciting breakthrough in regenerative medicine... using a patient's own stem cells to treat a weak heart muscle.
This is the kind of medicine that makes you think of medical technology meeting science fiction!
There is no approved stem cell therapy for the heart right now, but a national study going on at the medical college at Georgia Regents University could change all that.
WJBF News Channel 6's Jennie Montgomery has details.
This is a 3-dimensional map of the heart... and all roads lead to improved blood flow and heart function IF a clinical trial at GR Health System shows positive results.
"And the red zones are all zones that are scarred, and if you take this map and scrunch it up, like an accordion, you generate this map right here, and everything that's in red is densely scarred heart."
Dr. Adam Berman is the director of Cardiac Arrhythmia Ablation Services at GR Health System. He is the principal investigator of the study which is being done at several institutions across the country, taking stem cells from the patient's own bone marrow. The bone marrow is sent to an Aastrom Biosciences research laboratory where the stem cells are significantly expanded.
Berman then injects the stem cells back into multiple weak points in the heart-- using a catheter inserted through an artery at the groin, up into the heart.
"In the study we typically do about 20 injections within the healthier territories of the heart, with that needle, and that's the actual needle."
The difference between stem cell therapy- and conventional therapy, like a stent- is that the idea behind stem cells is "regenerative medicine," which is kind of like allowing the body to heal itself.
"When we put a stent in, or a pacemaker in, for instance, we're not really healing your heart-- we're treating it, so to speak, but we're not promoting its own healing. The idea behind stem cell therapy is to try to get the heart to begin to heal itself, and that I think is very exciting!"
The Medical College of Georgia at GRU is the first site in the state to be selected for this study. To be eligible, patients must have explored other existing options and have an internal defibrillator.
62-year old Richard Daggett was the FIRST patient in Georgia to get this therapy.
"I feel, personally, that it is my time to try to help myself and somewhere down the road for what they did to me, they can do it to someone else and help them."
Of 108 patients across the country, half are getting their own stem cells, the other half get placebo. Daggett won't know what he got until the end of the year long study.
Researchers will follow the patients for 12 months, looking at heart failure symptoms and quality of life. If the study results are positive, the placebo participants will be able to get the stem cell therapy.
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