Cardiac Stem Cell Research

Results from a ground-breaking Smidt Heart Institute clinical trial show that an infusion of cardiac stem cells helps damaged hearts regrow healthy muscle.

The first-in-man clinical trial, based on technologies and discoveries made by Eduardo Marbán, MD, PhD, and led by Raj Makkar, MD, explored the safety of harvesting, growing and giving patients their own cardiac stem cells to repair heart tissue injured by heart attack.

The study's findings, published in The Lancet, show that heart attack patients who received stem cell treatment demonstrated a significant reduction in the size of the scar left on the heart muscle; this is a pioneering stem cell result, says Marban, who notes the study shows actual regeneration of tissues. With support from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the Heart Institute team is now planning future clinical trials to treat advanced heart disease patients with stem cells.

The process to grow cardiac-derived stem cells involved in the study was developed earlier by Marbán when he was on the faculty of Johns Hopkins University. The university has filed for a patent on that intellectual property, and has licensed it to a company in which Marbán has a financial interest. No funds from that company were used to support the clinical study. All funding was derived from the National Institutes of Health and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

Since the Cedars-Sinai team completed the world's first cardiac stem cell infusion in 2009, additional insights have emerged from this and related work, including the discovery in animals that iron-infused cardiac stem cells can be guided with a magnet to damaged areas of the heart, dramatically increasing their retention and healing potential.

Another finding to emerge from Marbán's cardiac stem cell lab may have implications for many people's health: Stem cells exposed to high doses of supplemental antioxidants can develop genetic abnormalities that predispose them to cancer formation.

Click here to watch a CBS Evening News story about the clinical trial's results.