(RxWiki News) About 850,000 Americans suffer from refractory angina, a difficult-to-treat heart condition that causes chronic, severe chest pain and exercise intolerance. Now, patients may benefit from a new treatment involving injected stem cells.
Injecting a patient's own stem cells directly into the heart muscle could reduce symptoms of refractory angina by decreasing chest pain and improving the capacity to exercise.
"Angina sufferers may find relief in new stem cell treatments."
Patients receiving the new stem cell treatment reported significantly fewer episodes of chest pain and an increased physical activity capability. The research was recently published in Circulation Research, the journal of the American Heart Association.
The treatment, the first to show significant improvements in chest pain and exercise intolerance, which are the two primary debilitating features of refractory angina, could offer hope to sufferers who get no reduction in chest pain following drug therapy, angioplasty or surgery.
Dr. Douglas W. Losordo, lead researcher and director of the Feinberg Cardiovascular Research Institute at Northwestern University in Chicago, said other treatments studied have shown improvement in either chest pain or exercise capability, but not both at the same time.
To study the treatment, researchers assigned 167 patients at 26 U.S. medical centers to one of three groups that received either a low-dose cell concentration, a high-dose or a placebo. The injections contained the patient's own CD34+ stem cells, which circulate through the blood and are important in forming new blood vessels.
Patients received a drug to increase production of the cells so there were enough for the therapy, which was then injected into the heart through a catheter.
After six months, low-dose patients had 6.8 angina attacks per week versus 10.9 per week for those receiving placebo. High-dose patients had fewer episodes than the placebo group, but the difference was not statistically significant. At 12 months, the low-dose group had 6.3 episodes per week compared to 11 episodes per week for the placebo group.
Additional trials are necessary to confirm the findings and to investigate an enzyme change that is normally viewed as a heart attack signal, but caused no pain or heart test changes in most patients.