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Stem cell therapy tested

12th October 2005

A new project has been launched to discover whether a patient's own stem cells can be used to treat heart disease.

The study, funded by the Heart Cells Foundation, is being undertaken at the Barts and The London NHS Trust, where researchers will conduct a four-year study examining 700 patients.

Experts will use three different types of stem cell therapy techniques on three randomised control groups – the first made up of patients whose hearts are failing due to a previous heart attack; a group of patients suffering from dilated cardiomyopathy; and a group made up of patients who had just suffered a heart attack.

Doctors will extract stem cells from bone marrow in some patients' hips to inject into their major coronary artery or into their heart in a minimally invasive operation, while other patients will receive growth factor drugs to encourage their stem cells to spill out into the blood stream.

Lead researcher Dr Anthony Mathur said: "This is one of the biggest and most comprehensive trials of its kind in the world.

"Our studies will tell us if adult stem cells in bone marrow can repair damaged hearts and if so how these cells should be administered to patients.

"There is growing evidence to suggest that stem cells may benefit people with serious heart conditions, such as heart failure or those who have had heart attacks."

The Heart Cells foundation was set up by Ian Rosenberg, who suffered from such severe heart disease he was given months to live, until he received stem cell therapy in Germany.

"Stem cell therapy has given me years I never thought I would have," he said.

"I set up the Heart Cells Foundation so that others may benefit from this new and exciting science."