(RxWiki News) Following a heart attack, stem cell therapy appears to offer a moderate heart function benefit by repairing and reducing damage after blood supply to the heart is restricted.
Larger clinical trials are needed, however, to determine whether this benefit helps heart attack patients live longer.
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Enca Martin-Rendon, lead author from the Stem Cell Research laboratory, NHS Blood and Transplant at the John Radcliffe Hospital in the United Kingdom, said the new therapy appears to offer a moderate benefit over standard treatments.
Martin-Rendon said stem cell treatment also may reduce the number of patients who later suffer heart failure or die, though too few patients have been treated to draw a statistical conclusion.
After a heart attack, heart tissue is damaged by the lack of blood supply and cells can begin to die. As more cells die within weeks after a heart attack, the heart could be left unable to contract. Stem cell therapy involves using a patient's own bone marrow to repair or reduce the damage.
During the review study, researchers analyzed 33 clinical trials involving stem cell therapy. The total number of heart attack patients treated was 1,765, all of which had first undergone angioplasty to open blocked arteries.
Investigators found that stem cell therapy offered a moderate benefit in heart function that could last up to five years. There was not enough data to draw conclusions about survival rates.
Additional studies are still needed to measure heart function. One such trial is to be undertaken by the task force of the European Society of Cardiology for Stem Cells and Cardiac Repair, which recently received funding.
It is expected to be the largest trial yet involving stem cell therapy in heart attack patients, and could determine whether the treatment prolongs the lives of those who receive it.
The review study was published in The Cochrane Library.