A 61 year-old heart attack patient was successfully treated at Saitama Medical School in Japan, using bone marrow cell transplant. Dr. Shunei Kyo states that this is the first case of heart attack treated with the help of stem cell therapy, and that the patient has already been discharged from the hospital, after having been disconnected from an artificial heart.
The patient had a heart attack on February 3 and was subsequently admitted to the Saitama Medical Center in Kawagoe. He was given an external artificial heart, but was found to be unsuitable for a heart transplant, due to his age and other factors.
A group of doctors led by Dr. Kyo and Dr. Satoshi Gojo decided to conduct regenerative stem cell treatment, taking stem cells from the patient’s bone marrow. This method of treatment had been approved by the Medical School’s ethics committee in 2003.
They injected the cells into the damaged ventricle of the heart on May 18, and as soon as June 30 they were able to remove the patient’s artificial heart, because his heart had recovered to the extent that he could live without the artificial one.
[quote]The treatment will save patients who are unsuitable for transplants. We intend to use this treatment in clinical practice:Dr. Shunei Kyo[/quote] According to Dr. Kyo, this could be the first case worldwide in which a patient has recovered sufficient heart function to survive without an artificial heart. However, he also admits that there are differences of opinion on the treatment and that further research is needed to establish exactly how the stem cells transplanted into the heart work – whether they transform into heart muscle cells or they simply assist the development of heart muscle cells. The long-term recovery of patients treated with stem cells also needs to be carefully studied.
Observers of the study welcome the progress, but also warn that one case alone is not sufficient to prove that the method is safe and effective. They also say that guidelines of application of regenerative medicine in clinical practice need to be established as soon as possible.