A stem cell breakthrough grows new arteries. Scientists studied veins left over from surgery, extracted stem cells from the veins, and discovered material vital for restoring hope for patients suffering from heart disease. Scientists then simulated the growth of new arteries and may have discovered revolutionary means to repair hearts damaged by cardiac arrest and coronary attacks.
Professor Peter Weissberg, the medical director of the British Heart Foundation, reported his findings in the medical journal entitled "Circulation." Weissberg's study was published last week.
Weissberg stated "this is very encouraging and important advance brings the possibility of 'cell therapy' for damaged hearts one step closer. And if the chemical messages produced by the cells can be identified, it is possible that drugs could also be developed to achieve the same end." Weissberg teamed with Professor Paolo Mededdu and colleagues to complete the first stem cell transfer surgery from "leftover" bypass surgeries at Bristol University. Weissberg reported that part of heart bypass surgery involves a procedure removing a large section of a vein from a patient's leg, grafting the vein on the diseased coronary artery, and then diverting blood around a blockage or narrowed blood vessel to restore blood supply. Weissberg also stated "the crucial point is that surgeons always cut out a longer piece of vein than they need, so there is always a leftover piece. We looked to see if we could get stem cells from those leftovers."
Weissberg and his team found that after testing small sections of veins leftover from heart bypass operations, large amounts of stem cells could be retrieved from them. Weissberg maintained that "we got a few thousand stem cells. That is not nearly enough for treatments. However, it provided us with a source from which we could get those cells to proliferate. We seeded the stem cells in special plates and were able to grow them until we got samples of 50m to 60m cells which was enough to use as treatments."
Weissberg and his team went forward with their experiments and used mice to stimulate new blood vessel growth with stem cells. The team was successful and researchers hope to begin trials on human patients to stimulate blood vessel growth in patients recovering from various cardiac diseases and disorders.
Researchers have found a world of medical possibilities and sources of new medicines through the use of adult stem cells, known to function as a "pool" that the body can "repopulate" cells from when older cells die off, and embryonic stem cells, the cells created in the first weeks of life which cause fetal development. Embryonic stem cell research is a widely controversial ethical debate because embryonic stem cells are destroyed in laboratories after they are created.