Ottawa researchers study stem-cell therapy for heart attacks

Dr. Duncan Stewart, Harriet Garrow and Peter Garrow. Photo: Ottawa Hospital Research Institute

Dr. Duncan Stewart, Harriet Garrow and Peter Garrow. Photo: Ottawa Hospital Research Institute

Close to 70,000 Canadians and 715,000 Americans have heart attacks each year. While new treatments have improved survival and recovery rates, heart disease remains a significant problem.

Researchers at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute made headlines this week with trials on a promising “next generation” therapy for heart attack survivors. As described by this Sept 5th Institute press release:

Canadian researchers have treated the first patient in a world-first clinical trial using genetically enhanced stem cells to repair damaged heart muscle after a major heart attack. The formal name of the trial is ENACT-AMI, which stands for “Enhanced Angiogenic Cell Therapy – Acute Myocardial Infarction.”

“Stem cells have incredible potential to repair and regenerate damaged organs, but cells that come from heart attack patients don’t have the same healing abilities as those from young, healthy adults,” said Dr. Duncan Stewart, who is the Lead Principal Investigator of the trial, CEO and Scientific Director of the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute (OHRI), Vice-President of Research at The Ottawa Hospital and Professor of Medicine at the University of Ottawa.

“Our strategy is to rejuvenate these stem cells by providing extra copies of a gene that is essential for their regenerative activity, so that they better stimulate heart repair, reduce scar tissue and restore the heart’s ability to pump blood efficiently — in other words to help the heart fix itself,” he said today at OHRI’s Sprott Centre for Stem Cell Research.

Here’s more from the Ottawa Citizen on boosting the ability of stem cells to heal scar tissue:

…there’s a twist to this therapy. It rejuvenates the cells, which are extracted from the patient’s own blood soon after a heart attack. The cells are enhanced with extra copies of a gene, endothelial nitric oxide synthase, which is essential to blood vessel function. The enhanced cells are then returned to the patient through an infusion.The entire process, from extracting the cells to the infusion, takes about six days. Then the cells go to work to stimulate heart repair, reduce scar tissue and restore the heart’s ability to pump blood efficiently.

More information on eligibility for the study can be seen here. This therapy is still in the trial stage, as reported by CBC:

The study will see 100 severe heart attack patients in Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal randomly selected to receive the combined gene-and-stem-cell therapy, stem cell therapy alone, or a placebo.

While this is not news you can count on for anyone dealing with a heart attack right now, therapies of this nature could prove beneficial in time.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Comments are closed.