Friday, February 17, 2012

Scientists Regrow Tissue Killed During Heart Attack

U.S. scientists have done what was once considered science fiction - regrown heart muscle to replace tissue that was killed off in a heart attack. It's the latest advance in the field of regenerative medicine. In a heart attack, the heart muscle itself loses some of its blood supply. The affected tissue dies, and the heart becomes less able to pump blood to the rest of the body.

If a patient reaches an advanced medical center quickly enough, doctors can open the blocked artery before the damage is done. But the director of the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles, Eduardo Marbán, had a more ambitious plan. "The idea was to take patients who had suffered a heart attack, in which part of the heart muscle turns to scar, and to challenge the dogma that scar, once formed, is permanent, and that healthy tissue, once lost, is lost forever."

To do that, Marbán's team biopsied small pieces of heart tissue from recent heart attack victims and used them to grow stem cells in the laboratory. Millions of cardiac stem cells were then injected back into the affected part of the heart. "So it was the same area of the heart that had sustained injury," he says, "and cells were being infused into the coronary artery that had been blocked by the clot to cause the heart attack in the first place."