More stem cell research needed to help people with cardiomyopathy

2nd November 2015

Doctors in America have backed more stem cell research to help improve heart conditions such as dilated cardiomyopathy.

They say that though research over the last 15 years has not shown significant benefits from stem cell treatment, stem cells do have properties that could affect disease progression. So further testing is justified.

The researchers, from heart centres around the country, have been focussing on people who have a left ventricular ejection fraction  of less than 40 per cent.  Ejection fraction is a measure of the amount of blood pumped out of the heart at every beat.  In a normal functioning heart it is around 55 per cent.

The team, led by Dr Anita Kelkar from the cardiology division of the Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, said that although some encouraging results have been reported in stem cell trials, these have been small, leading to uncertainty about whether they will ever bring significant improvements for patients.

So the team looked at why previous trials had not produced significant benefits and at whether the factors contributing to worsening heart failure might benefit from the already known activities of stem cells.

They concluded that many mechanisms contributing to progressive left ventricular dysfunction are matched by stem cell activities that could reduce the effect of the progression.

This suggests that stem cell strategies may improve patient outcomes and justifies further testing, they said.

The research has been reported in the Journal of the Americal College of Cardiology.