Pioneering stem cell therapy mends damaged heart tissue in patients

Score one small victory for the troubled field of stem cell therapeutics. A small clinical trial showed that patients' own stem cells could repair damaged heart tissue after they suffered heart attacks, giving California developer Capricor the confidence to push ahead with a larger study, Bloomberg reported.

With an eye toward combating heart failure, 17 patients got the stem cell treatment, and half of what would otherwise be permanent scarring was fixed and muscle tissue grew. There was no significant change in heart function between those who got the experimental stem cell treatment and those who got the standard therapy in the 25-patient trial, but the regeneration of heart tissue marks significant progress in the field, experts told Bloomberg.

"If we can regenerate the whole heart, then the patient would be completely normal," Eduardo Marban, the study's lead author from Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles, told Bloomberg. "We haven't fulfilled that yet, but we've gotten rid of half of the injury, and that's a good start."

Of course, this stem cell therapy faces a long haul to prove its worth as a treatment for patients at risk of heart failure--which has long been the leading cause of death among Americans. But the promise shown in the trial conducted at Cedars-Sinai and Johns Hopkins University boosts a stem cell field that has taken some blows recently, most notability with embryonic stem cell pioneer Geron's ($GERN) decision to exit the field and sell its ESC assets last year.

Capricor's good news adds to Advanced Cell Technology's ($ACTC) upbeat data from a study of an ESC therapy for combating blindness. So these developers and their never-say-die mentality keep the world watching the stem cell field.

- check out Bloomberg's article
- see The Telegraph's report