Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death worldwide in men and women worldwide, claiming more than 17 million lives each year.
The heart muscle relies on a steady flow of oxygen-rich blood to nourish it and keep it pumping.
During a heart attack, the interrupted blood flow causes damage to the heart muscle, making it less efficient at pumping blood throughout the circulatory system. The heart has minimal ability to regenerate, so the lost muscle is replaced by scar tissue.
Over time, this damage can lead to heart failure, especially when one heart attack comes after another.
What Are Current Treatments For Heart Conditions?
Current treatments for heart failure focus on managing symptoms (like reducing blood pressure) but do not address the root problem: a heart that has lost too many functional heart muscle cells.
Despite major advances in how heart disease is managed, heart disease is progressive.
Once heart cells are damaged, they cannot be replaced by the body. New treatment strategies are needed to restore function, rather than manage, this chronic disease.
Lifestyle changes, such as lowering salt and fat intake, exercising regularly, reducing alcohol consumption, and quitting smoking are recommended to reduce the chances of heart attack and in the early stages of congestive heart failure.
The goals are to slow down any progression of the disease, lessen symptoms, and improve quality of life.
How Have Stem Cells Been Used To Treat Heart Conditions?
Using cellular therapy, researchers hope to repair or replace heart tissue damaged by congestive heart failure and heart attacks. Unlike the treatments listed above, cellular therapy could provide a durable treatment for heart deficiencies, rather than symptom-focused treatment.
A new treatment using stem cells—which have the potential to grow into a variety of heart cell types—could potentially repair and regenerate damaged heart tissue.
In a recent study, researchers treated 17 heart attack patients with an infusion of stem cells. A year after the procedure, the amount of scar tissue had shrunk by about 50%.