Stem cells may repair hearts

Coronary artery disease is the most common cause of heart attacks and death in the world.

Plaque builds up in the arteries, reducing blood flow to the heart.

Now, a new experimental treatment is helping to improve this flow.

And as Maureen found out, it also repairs heart attack damage.
Debbie Minch is thankful for each day.

Ten years ago, at just 49 years old, the choir singer and her husband were told she would need a quadruple bypass.

Debbie says, “Now we are at the point where my heart is severely damaged and nothing is really helping."

Doctors said a heart transplant was her only option, but she will soon find out if she will be accepted into a new trial that could use her own stem cells to help repair the once thought irreversible damage.

Doctor Jon George, Interventional Cardiologist at Temple University School of Medicine, says, “or even create new blood vessels within areas of the heart that have been damaged."

First, stem cells are taken from a patient's bone marrow. Then, using a special catheter and 3D mapping tool, the cells are injected directly into the damaged tissue.

Dr. George says, "We have results from animal data that, uh, show blood vessels regrow, uh, in the patients that actually get stem cell therapy."

This is a possible answer to Debbie's prayers.
Coronary heart disease is caused by a variety of things, like smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

All of these things damage the inner layers of the coronary arteries.

The build-up of plaque in these arteries can start during childhood.


REPORT: MB #3752

BACKGROUND: Coronary heart disease, or CHD, is when a waxy substance called plaque builds up inside the coronary arteries. These are the arteries that supply oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle. The plaque buildup occurs over many years. The hardened plaque narrows the coronary arteries and then reduces the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart. CHD is the most common type of heart disease. CHD is the number one cause of death for both men and women in the United States. (Source:

CAUSES: CHD can be caused by smoking, high levels of certain fats and cholesterol, high blood pressure, high levels of sugar in the blood and blood vessel inflammation, all of these things can damage the inner layers of the coronary arteries. The buildup of plaque in the coronary arteries can start during childhood. Blocked coronary arteries can cause a heart attack down the road, or could lead to heart failure or stroke. (Source: National Institute of Health)

NEW TREATMENTS: A new treatment is being tested that uses the patient's stem cells. The stem cells are taken from the patient's bone marrow. Doctors use a special mapping tool to see the exact areas of the heart that are damaged. Then they will inject the cells directly into the borders surrounding those areas. The stem cells, because of their nature, can turn into any cell in the body. So far, results from animal data show regrown blood vessels in the patients who have gotten the stem cell therapy. The hope is that the cells can stimulate a normal blood flow by correcting the disease in the existing vessels. (Source: Temple University School of Medicine)


Jennie Wong
Research Coordinator
Temple University School of Medicine

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