Stem cells trial will be conducted within weeks on 100 patients in London to repair the damages heart attack, scientists reported yesterday.
This Ģ1.2 million trial of stem cells that have been isolated from the cardiac patients' own bone marrow will be backed by Ģ500,000 from philanthropists and aims at investigating previous small studies that have suggested that benefits of prompt action to cut deaths and suffering.
The UK Stem Cell Foundation has announced this as the first trial and is planned at enriching stem cells from the bone marrow and injecting them into the previously blocked coronary artery within the crucial five hours of the heart attack to see whether stem cells can improve quality of life as well as delay or prevent the onset of heart failure.
Prof John Martin, British Heart Foundation chairman in cardiovascular sciences ; at University College London NHS Trust and Barts and Dr Anthony Mathur, senior lecturer and consultant cardiologist at the London NHS Trust will conduct the randomized control blinded trial, wherein half the patients will be injected with blood serum for comparison.
The study is scheduled for after Christmas and is expected to follow up findings from trials in Germany on small groups of patients although the subject of the working of transplants is still surrounded by dispute, whether it allows the growth of new blood vessels or new muscle or instead whether they exude factors or hormones that aid self repair. Two years is the time proposed for awaiting results.
"We don't know exactly what happens in the heart. We know it is safe and we know it works in animals," said Prof Martin, adding that this was an unusual treatment in that it came from doctors instead of the pharmaceutical industry, because the use of a patient's own cells cannot be patented.
David Macauley, chief executive of the UK Stem Cell Foundation, said that animal tests had shown that the earlier the treatment, the better.
He said, "This is the first project of its type in the UK to combine stem cell delivery to the heart with primary angioplasty - where the blocked arteries in heart attack patients are opened as quickly as possible. It addresses one of the biggest killers in the UK - 108,000 people die every year from heart attack."
The last decade has seen a shift in people dying during the acute phase of a heart attack to instead the eventual death from long term effects, including heart failure, when the heart does not pump enough blood to meet the needs of the body.
Prof John Martin, who is also chairman of a European stem cell task force, said: "Previous studies have shown that stem cell delivery to the heart is safe. We will show whether it works in acute heart attack. Our study combines the two new ways of treating heart attack victims for the first time."
50 per cent of the funds required for the project has been provided by the London Development Agency and private funding of Ģ500,000 has been donated by the financiers William Bollinger, and his wife, Judith.