March 30 (HealthDay News) -- In people with severe angina, injecting their own stem cells into the heart muscle appears to reduce pain and improve their ability to exercise, say U.S. researchers.
"The results from this study provide the first evidence that a patient's own stem cells could actually be used as a treatment for heart disease," Dr. Douglas Losordo, director of the Feinberg Cardiovascular Research Institute at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, said in a university news release. "The study provides potential hope for those patients with currently untreatable angina to be more active with less pain."
The phase 2 study included 167 adults with severe angina who were on maximal medical therapy and were not suitable candidates for conventional procedures to improve blood flow to the heart, such as angioplasty, stents or coronary artery bypass surgery.
They were given a drug that stimulated the release of CD34+ adult stem cells from the bone marrow, and the stem cells were collected from each participant's blood and separated from other components. In about half of the participants, randomly selected, the stem cells were then injected into 10 locations in their heart muscle. The others were given an injection of saline.
Six months later, people who'd had their own stem cells injected into their heart muscle were able to walk longer on a treadmill than the others. It also took longer until they experienced angina pain while walking on the treadmill, and the pain went away faster once they rested than it did in those who'd gotten a saline injection. The stem cell group also had fewer episodes of chest pain.
Though promising, the results aren't definitive and must be verified in a larger study, Losordo said.
The study was presented March 28 at the annual scientific session of the American College of Cardiology, in Orlando, Fla.
SOURCE: Northwestern University, news release, March 30, 2009