Spain Uses World’s First Stem Cell Treatment For Heart Attacks

Doctors at a hospital in Spain have successfully used stem cells to treat victims of heart attacks for the first time in medical history.

Located in Madrid, the Gregorio Maranon hospital took stem cells that were harvested from a healthy donor, and then implanted them into seven different patients who had suffered from a heart attack. They say they are happy with the results and plan to repeat the procedure with at least 55 other patients in an upcoming clinical trial.

In an official statement from the hospital, they commented on the success they have seen so far.

“Seven patients have already been operated on and they have progressed very well despite having suffered serious damage to their heart tissue”

Generally, what happens when someone suffers a heart attack is that their arteries get clogged or a blood clot or other factor begins to restrict the flow of oxygen to the heart. This damage often leaves scarring tissue behind on the heart. This can make life after recovery extremely difficult and limit patient’s activity levels after they have suffered from a heart attack.

When stem cells are injected into the heart via the coronary artery, they can help the heart to repair itself with healthy heart tissue, instead of the usual scarring that occurs on the heart muscle after a heart attack.

Doctors also say that another advantage of using this method is that, traditionally, studies have looked at using a patient’s own stem cells for such procedures. However, it takes at least eight weeks to process those cells. In contrast, using stem cells from a healthy donor means that the cells can be prepared and stored ahead of time for use when needed.

Lead Cardiologist for the Gregorio Maranon hospital, Dr Francisco Ferandez-Avila, spoke about the importance of this in the official statement released by the hospital.

“Besides this very important advantage, this technique allows for the selection of donors whose cells show the greatest potential to repair. Before being processed, the allogeneic cells are exhaustively studied and only those that functioned best are selected.”

Over 17 million people die from heart disease and related complications every year, and it is the leading cause of death in the United States. While, for the most part, heart disease is completely preventable with proper nutrition and a healthy diet, regular exercise and stress reduction, doctors hope to find ways to help those who have already suffered from a heart attack.

[Image: FastCompany]