Trials underway using stem cell and gene therapy to treat heart damage

Heart Failure causes more damage than you think
Heart Failure causes more damage than you think (Photo credit: Novartis AG)

Both Canada and the UK have recently begun large-scale human trials to test how well new approaches using stem cells and gene therapy will work for treating damage in human hearts.

The idea of the Canadian study is that a patient’s own stem cells are the most direct and effective way to repair damage and rebuild function in the heart. But because the stem cells from a damaged heart are not working up to normal capacity, scientists tested and found that adding extra copies of a gene that “stimulates blood vessel growth and improves tissue healing, known as endothelial nitric oxide synthase,” improves that function.

In other words, the gene stimulates the patient’s stem cells to reproduce more quickly and do their magic to help the heart heal itself. The Canadian trial is for post-heart-attack patients.The UK trial will be using a carrier virus to insert a gene into heart failure patients to help their hearts pump better.

Nothing but good news here – except that it will be two and three years before results are in. Stay tuned.

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