Stem Cell Test treating Heart Attacks

By Pooja Patel

Mike Jones suffered a massive heart attack in 2004. His heart attack occurred because he had congestive heart failure which means his heart was not pumping blood efficiently. After his heart attack, he was prescribed medication to help his heart on a day to day basis. He said “I would have to take my nitroglycerin tablets to help my chest pain” “I also had to sit down many times for a break”. He felt there has to be another solution for his ailments. Mike Jones wanted a better life with a new heart. He researched the process of stem cell treatment and thought this might be the way to help him without the burden of his current treatment regimen. Mike Jones went through the process of stem cell treatment, because the lifestyle he had after the heart attack was not suitable for him. Dr. Roberto Bolli helped him to his recovery. After the stem cell treatment, Mike Jones had an increase in his ejection fraction from 20 to 40 percent. The ejection fraction is a measure of how much blood his heart was pumping from one chamber to the other. Mike Jones was the first patient in the world to get an infusion of his own cardiac stem cells in 2009 (Jabr, 2013). The medical field is aware of the difficult process of recovery from a heart attack and the strict and difficult to maintain treatment regimen following a severe cardiac injury. Researchers have conducted various methods to help improve prevention or treatment of heart attacks. A current breakthrough, Stem Cell Test, is currently being used for treatment of heart attacks (“Stem Cell Test Is 'biggest,” 2011).

In the United States more than a million people suffer from heart attacks in a given year. A heart attack is also known as myocardial infarction and usually occurs when a blood clot is blocking the blood from flowing through the arteries. When blood does not flow properly to the heart it can damage or destroy the heart muscle (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2011). According to research, the leading cause of death in the United States is heart attacks (Crumlish & Magel, 2011). Since this is a grave health problem individuals need to be familiar with symptoms of a heart attack.

Most individuals do not recognize the symptoms of a heart attack, therefore leading to the delay in onset of symptoms and receiving treatment (Crumlish & Magel, 2011). Thus, it is imperative that society become more educated about the symptoms of this health problem. Some symptoms that a person may experience include: chest discomfort or pain, upper body pain, shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting, etc. Some may have searing pain in the jaws, back, or throat. One of the most important symptoms to recognize is the irregular and fast heartbeat also known as heart palpitations (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2011). The symptoms vary among individuals but heart attacks begin with subtle symptoms. These symptoms should not be ignored or mistaken as other symptoms like indigestion (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2011). When an individual is having symptoms of a heart attack, each person should immediately seek emergency help by calling 911.

A heart attack occurs due to a lack of blood supply to the heart. The arteries in the heart become narrow because there is a great amount of plaque built up. If there is a blood clot in the artery the heart muscle has difficulty gaining oxygen. When all of this occurs it results in the infarction or death of the heart muscle. This causes the heart muscle to be permanently damaged, ensuing in a heart attack (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2011). The longer an individual waits the worse it can be.

There are various methods used by doctors to diagnose a heart attack. One of these methods is called an electrocardiogram also known as an ECG. An ECG shows the damage done to the heart muscle (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2011). Another method used is a blood test, which measures the level of cardiac enzymes and shows the damage done to the heart. A third method used is an echocardiography. This is an imaging test done to tell how the heart is pumping and what areas of the heart are not pumping properly. This test is conducted during and after a heart attack. Lastly, cardiac catheterization is a test used to tell which arteries are blocked. This helps the doctor decide which procedure to use. Cardiac catheterization is used in the first few hours of a heart attack (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2011).

Once a heart attack is diagnosed treatment begins instantaneously with drugs, surgical procedures, and various tests. A breakthrough, currently in the medical field to treat this common health issue is a stem cell test. A stem cell is the body’s raw materials and these cells help other cells have more specialized functions (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2013). Once the stem cells divide into daughter cells they can become new cells or specialized cells as mentioned before (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2013). This new breakthrough consists of extracting cardiac stem cells which are self-renewing cells to help rebuild the damaged heart muscle and any damaged arteries (“Stem Cell Test Is 'biggest,” 2011). According to research, the stem cell test can help a variety of health problems that include cancer, type 1 diabetes, spinal cord injuries, but most importantly heart disease (Patel, Parik, Jain, & Baviskar, 2012). Stem cell therapy may be beneficial for most individuals because it provides faster recovery after a heart attack than the availability of organ or tissue transplantation (Patel et al., 2012).

Stem cells have the ability to grow into many cell types in the body (Kolapudi, Kapudasi, Koppula, & Chandu, 2012). These cells serve as an internal repair system, while dividing limitlessly to replace other cells that are damaged. The system of cells can only work if the organism is alive. Stem cells are so interesting that when they divide they can either remain a stem cell or become a more specialized cell. An example of a specialized cell is a stem cell turning into brain cell, heart cell, or even a muscle cell (Kolapudi et al., 2012). These cells can undertake even more complex functions such as dividing under special conditions for an organ like the heart (Kolapudi et al., 2012). The reason why these specialized cells can be used to treat heart disease is because it already consists of small populations of committed cardiac stem cells (Krishna, Krishna, Berrocal, Rao, & Rao, 2011).

In the heart muscle there are various ways to deliver the stem cells. During a stem cell treatment, cardiologists use a direct intra-myocardial injection of the cells to the heart (Patel et al., 2012). Another way is growing the cells in a laboratory setting and then injecting the cells to the damaged regions of the heart (“Stem Cell Test Is 'biggest,” 2011). The cells are injected through a balloon catheter, which helps to open up the closed arteries (“Stem Cell Test Is 'biggest,” 2011). Research also says that stem cell routes consist of direct injections into the ventricular walls of the heart, transepicardial and transendocardial infusions, or intravenous infusions (Krishna et al., 2011). The goal of these stem cells is to generate cardiac tissues (Krishna et al., 2011).

For a myocardial infarction (heart attack), adult stem cells are currently the only type of cell types implanted (Krishna et al., 2011). Adult stem cells are found in adult tissues in small numbers. Types of adult stem cells include bone marrow or fat from an individual (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2013). According to research, bone marrow stem cells can create bone or heart muscle cells (Patel et al., 2012). Adult stem cells are now being used to help treat patients with heart disease (Kolapudi et al., 2012).

Stem cells are obtained from various locations; however one main source is from an individual’s bone marrow (Patel et al., 2012). Bone marrow is believed to regenerate infarcted myocardium (Krishna et al., 2011). Mesenchymal stem cells are derived from bone marrow. They are less likely to become cancerous than regular stem cells when being used to cure a damaged heart (Jabr, 2013). Mesenchymal stem cells can replicate and turn into heart muscle (Jabr, 2013). Bone marrow stem cells have helped recover a damaged heart muscle. Bone marrow cells have another benefit in that they can be used from one’s own or from another individual’s cell. Research has shown that elderly patients benefit from younger individuals stem cells because those cells have not undergone much wear and tear (Jabr, 2013).

There are advantages and disadvantages to stem cell treatment. Some advantages for this treatment include helping scientists learn more about cell growth and development and that patients can use their own adult stem cells to treat diseases. The risk of your body rejecting your own cells is miniscule. Another advantage is that doctors or scientists will be able to test medications without animal or human testers. They will be able to test the medication with stem cells and that will also allow them to discover any side effects the medication has. An additional pro to using stem cell treatment is that not only is it helping heart disease but many more health problems such as Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, cancer, and spinal cord injuries. However, there are disadvantages to stem cell treatment. One disadvantage is since this treatment is so new the long term effects are not known yet. Another disadvantage is that adult stem cell only have one function as they are pre specialized, for example heart stem cells only make heart cells (Kolapudi et al., 2012). Overall, research has shown more advantages than disadvantages for stem cell treatment, which makes this treatment more promising.

Since Jones’ case there have been hundreds of other patients with heart damage to receive stem cell therapy from their own heart or bone marrow. These patients have shown great improvement in their health and lifestyles (Jabr, 2013). Further research has been conducted by Dr. Bolli to support stem cell therapy. In one study, fourteen patients responded to the cell treatment with increased blood pumping efficiency, whereas seven patients who did not receive stem cell therapy showed no improvement at all. Dr. Bolli proposes they are fixing the fundamental problem being, to replace dead tissue with new cardiac muscle (Moisse, 2011). Research has shown that doctors at Johns Hopkins University and Cedars- Sinai Heart Institute have used cardiac stem cells to help a damaged heart muscle after one has experienced a heart attack (Robb, 2012). Stem cell treatment is helping many patients after a heart attack and patients are doing well after receiving it. Since heart attacks are so prevalent in our society it is important that doctors and scientist find ways to help patients after the prognosis. This breakthrough is helping so many individuals by implanting cardiac adult stem cells to improve damaged heart muscles. This treatment has its advantages and disadvantage, but research shows the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. Stem cell treatment has a great amount of research to support the fact that it is helping patients who have suffered from a heart attack.

Since heart attacks are so prevalent in our society it is important that doctors and scientist find ways to help patients after the prognosis. This breakthrough is helping so many individuals by implanting cardiac adult stem cells to improve damaged heart muscles. This treatment has its advantages and disadvantage, but research shows the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. Stem cell treatment has a great amount of research to support the fact that it is helping patients who have suffered from a heart attack.


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Krishna, A. K., Krishna, S. K., Berrocal, R., Rao, S. K., & Rao, S. R., S. R. (2011). Myocardial infarction and stem cells. Journal of Pharmacy & Bioallied Sciences, 3(2), 182-188.

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Patel, R. N., Parik, V. B., Jain, D. K., & Baviskar, D. T. (2012). Adult stem cell: A new therapy to treat heart failure. International Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, 4(4), 52-58.

Robb, A. (2012). Could a petri dish save your life? Good Housekeeping,255(5), 124-200.

Stem cell test is 'biggest breakthrough in treating heart attacks for a generation'. (2011, November 14). Retrieved April 10, 2013, from The Telegraph website: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/8889031/ Stem-cell-test-is-biggest-breakthrough-in-treating-heart-attacks-for-a-generation.html

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