German scientists have posted some of the most convincing long-term data yet seen demonstrating that injections of a chronic heart failure patient's own bone marrow stem cells can significantly improve heart function and raise their chances of survival.
The researchers recruited close to 400 subjects for the trial, nearly evenly dividing them between a group that received stem cell injections and another group which opted to go without the added therapy. Researchers said they could begin tracking a positive response after three months and found that after five years only seven of the stem cell treatment group had died compared to 32 in the control arm of the study. All of the patients were provided standard therapy for their condition.
"Our study suggests that, when administered as an alternative or in addition to conventional therapy, bone marrow cell therapy can improve quality of life, increase ventricular performance and increase survival," said lead researcher Bodo-Eckehard Strauer of Duesseldorf's Heinrich Heine University. And Strauer went on to tell a gathering in Stockholm that the therapy presents no risks and "can only be beneficial."
Not everyone who has reviewed the data, though, is so certain. "God gave us two gifts for doing clinical research--blinding and randomization," Rob Califf, vice chancellor for research at Duke University, told MedPage Today. "If you have done neither, your data are interesting but not definitive."