The treatment, which was developed by British regenerative medicine company Celixir, involved injecting adult stem cells into heart muscle during bypass surgery. Heart failure is often caused by heart attacks, which permanently scar and weaken heart muscle, leaving the heart unable to pump blood effectively round the body. This is the first research to show reversal of that scarring and the apparent regeneration of the heart muscle.
Eleven patients with severe heart failure received the treatments in 2012 and 2013, which were carried out by surgeon Professor Steve Westaby of the John Radcliffe Hospital and specialists Dr Kryiakos Anastasiadis and Dr Polychronis Antonitsis of theGeneral University Hospital of Thessaloniki.
Three years after the treatment, all 11 patients are still alive. ‘Even in a small study you don’t expect to see results this dramatic,’ saidAjan Reginald, the co-founder of Celixir. ‘The life expectancy for these patients is less than two years – we’re excited and honoured that these patients are still alive.’ Heart failure is incurable, and affects around 900,000 people in Britain. A third of patients admitted to hospital each year die within 12 months.
The cells, which go by the trademarked name Heartcel, are immuno-modulatory progenitor (iMP) cells, a type of adult stem cell that can differentiate into a variety of celltypes – including muscle, bone and connective tissue. The cells also appear to reduce inflammation and promote regeneration. After the treatment, heart-muscle scarring was reduced by 40 percent, whereas typical drug therapies reduce scarring by only 5–10 percent. Patients also showed a 30 percent improvement in heart function and a 70 percent improvement in quality of life.
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