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Bone marrow stem cells 'improve' heart healing

15th February 2012

A UK review of clinical trials by the Cochrane Collaboration has found that bone marrow stem cell therapy offers moderate improvement to heart attack patients.

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It reached the conclusion after looking at 33 trials involving more than 1,700 patients but stressed that longer-term studies were needed to see if the experimental therapy affected life expectancy.

The findings come after doctors reported the first case of using heart cells to heal heart attack damage, although the US trials are at an early stage.

The Cochrane review pooled the data from all 33 bone marrow trials which had taken place up to 2011 and concluded that bone marrow therapy “may lead to a moderate long-term improvement” in heart function which “might be clinically very important.”

However, it found no significant impact on mortality at this stage compared to standard treatment.

Lead author Dr Enca Martin-Rendon, from NHS Blood and Transplant at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, suggested the new treatment may lead to moderate improvement in heart function over standard treatments, although acknowledged that at present there is a lack of statistically significant evidence based on the small number of patients treated so far.

Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said the review reflected the consensus of opinion that cell therapy has a “modestly beneficial effect”.

He added: “Despite that, no-one knows why, or even if, cell therapies will translate into better survival or sustained improvement in damaged hearts. It’s much too early to judge the likely long-term benefits.”

 

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