For patients who suffer a major heart attack, get treatment at the hospital but are left with a damaged heart, Dr. Roger Gammon of the Heart Hospital of Austin is testing a new process to reverse that damage.
Just as a Houston hospital is investigating stem cells to repair the brains of stroke patients (see yesterday’s blog), the Heart Hospital is trying out a new stem cell therapy to fix the hearts of patients who suffered their first attack.
It is one of the nation’s first hospitals to test the new therapy.
Gammon, an interventional cardiologist, is leading the clinical trial in which patients are injected with donated adult stem cells from the bone marrow of others. The stems cells are purified by Osiris Therapeutics, Inc., which markets them as a product called Prochymal. Osiris is financing the research project, which is being done in the gold-standard way: Half of the patients are getting stem cells, and half are getting a placebo (a harmless product that looks the same). The researchers and patients don’t know which patients are getting the stem cells and which one aren’t.
The idea of using stem cells to repair damaged hearts is not new, but the process Gammon’s team is using is, he said today. The Heart Hospital is one of 40 hospitals in the nation to be selected for the study, and only one other hospital — in Kansas — has started the trial, Gammon said. His first patient got the therapy Monday, and another is scheduled this week.
“What’s kind of unique and new is it’s given intravenously,” Gammon said of the stem cell therapy. “The cells are drawn to the heart and they implant there.” Marrow stem cells have the ability to develop into other types of cells in the body and regenerate new tissue.
Candidates for the therapy must agree to have it within seven days of coming to the hospital, Gammon said. The only other hospital in Texas that is offering the therapy is in Houston, he said.
He expects to enroll about 20 patients over the next six to eight months.
“If it works,” Gammon said, “it will be fantastic.”