July 21, 2008
Newly-published research shows that new blood vessels for the heart can be grown using adult stem cells from blood and bone marrow. The work combined two types of specialized (progenitor) adult stem cell types transplanted into mice, to give the best production of blood vessels of the type that are used for heart bypass surgery. The study was reported in the July 18 issue of the journal Circulation Research. One of the authors, Dr. Juan M. Melero-Martin of Harvard Medical School, said that "For clinical use, the way we envision it, if a patient has need to vascularize ischemic tissue, we can get cells from the patient ahead of time, grow them and inject them back into the patient." One goal now is to reduce the time it takes to grow the blood vessels outside the body. Extensive growth now is seen after seven days, and the hope is to reduce that to 24 to 48 hours.
Growing your own bypass, with your own cells, may be what is taking place for many heart patients that have already been treated with their own adult stem cells. That's how Lieutenant Ronnie Smallwood sees it. Smallwood suffered from congestive heart failure. He was treated by putting some of his own adult stem cells into parts of his heart muscle. Smallwood is now feeling better, and ready to go back to fishing in his off hours. He was treated by Dr. Emerson Perin of the Texas Heart Institute, who has treated a number of heart patients with their own adult stem cells. "What we are doing with the stem cells is hopefully creating better blood flow to areas of the heart that don't get good blood flow," Dr. Perin says.