We catch up with a cardiologist, who explains how a patient’s own stem cells can repair damage from heart disease and heart failure
All Credits: PA
In recent years, it’s become apparent that stem cells will be a key ingredient of future medical treatments. And nowhere is the use of these ‘building block cells’ more important than through their amazing ability to repair the heart.
The Heart Cells Foundation charity (heartcellsfoundation.com) is funding pioneering research into potentially lifesaving treatment using a patient’s own stem cells as a natural repair system to treat heart problems, including heart disease, heart failure and cardiomyopathy. Trials show the stem cells may be able to restore damaged heart tissue, and the treatment is being offered to selected heart failure patients at the Heart Cells Foundation-funded Compassionate Unit at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London. It’s the first treatment of its kind in Europe.
What research has been completed?
“In the programme’s last clinical trial, patients with heart disease were treated using stem cell therapy and analysed against a placebo group. Results proved the patients’ hearts had started to pump more efficiently, and patients also reported an overall improved physiological and psychological state, enabling them to return to a lifestyle nearer to normal.”
What’s the next step for heart stem cell research?
“We are now raising funds (approximately £8 million) to conduct a larger Phase III trial to consolidate these findings. If successful, the final trial will provide further evidence to the NHS to consider adopting this therapy as standard care. Currently, until the Phase III trials are complete, we have the compassionate programme only. The future timing depends on funding the Phase III trials, which have been planned and are ready to go.”
Can someone with a heart problem get stem cell treatment at the moment?
“Stem cell therapy isn’t currently available within the NHS. However, the Compassionate Unit at St Bartholomew’s allows us to treat patients from across the UK suffering with heart failure due to ischaemic heart disease of dilated cardiomyopathy, who have no further treatment options available to them. The Compassionate Unit is happy to receive enquiries from patients, GPs, cardiologists and healthcare professionals.”