by Kimberly Allen, RN
Stem cell therapy continues to be controversial, however, it is currently being used to treat at least 75 different conditions ranging from acute blood disorders and cancers to inherited metabolic and autoimmune disorders. Research into the use of stem cells in treating disease is ongoing but the recent discoveries and research into the use of stem cells to treat cardiac disease has many in the medical community excited. Recent clinical trials using new technology show extreme promise in repairing and rebuilding cardiac muscle ticcue as well as damage that occurs due to stroke and spinal cord injuries.
So what are stem cells and where can you find them? Stem cells are the adaptable cells in our body that can adjust to become what ever cell type is needed. When an injury occurs to your bosy it is the stem cells that travel to the injured area to repair the damage. Stem cells are located in various areas of our body including your bone marrow and bloodstream even any fat tissue you may have. Though stem cells can be found in a variety of areas in your body there aren’t that many of them.
Currently it’s the potential advances in the treatment of heart disease that has may so excited. There are several different clinical trials in progress involving the use of stem cells. One of the most promising is a machine called the Celution system from Cytori Therapeutics. the study involves 45 patients in a random double blind clinical trial and the results are expected to be in by the end of the year. The machine works by obtaining and using the stem cells stored in your body fat. Believe it or not our fat tissue is the only area in our body with sufficient levels of stem cells. Even our bone marrow doesn’t even come close to having the same number and volume as fat tissue. The patient with heart disease is taken to a treatment room where he/she is given a small dose of pain medicine and then the Dr uses a tool that is part of the machine to extract 1 liter of tissue from your abdominal fat, sort of a modest liposuction. Then the machine extracts the very powerful adipose derived stem and regenerative cells or ADRC’s from the fat tissue using a process similar to centrifuge. Then the Dr is able to inject those stem cells directly into the area of the patients heart that is damaged via cardiac catheterization. This allows the Dr to access the patients stem cells and deliver them in a single procedure and much less expensively. This system has already been used outside the US successfully for treating tissue deformities and breast reconstruction as well as serious burns. According to the company’s chief science officer Marc Hedrick they should be able to begin a final definitive study involving hundreds of patients at various sites throughout the US in 2014.
There have also been clinical trials involving cardiopoietic or “smart” stem cells. These are stem cells that have been treated with a specific “protein cocktail” which then enables the stem cells to duplicate heart muscle cells. In this process stem cells are removed from the bone marrow of the patients hip before being treated with the protein cocktail and then injected into the patients heart. According to Dr Andre Terzic director of the Mayo Clinic Center for Regenerative Medicine every patient that received the stem cell treatment improved. Each patient demonstrated improved heart pumping function with in 6 months after treatment. Patients also demonstrated the ability to walk longer distances and general overall improved fitness after treatment. The complete results of the clinical trial can be found on line at the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Heart disease is the number one killer of Americans which makes the potential for more advanced and effective treatment a significant discovery. However, preventing heart disease should always be a priority. Regular exercise and eating a healthy diet as well as maintaining a healthy weight are key to preventing heart disease.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.