An Indian American cardiologist in Wisconsin is running a pioneering trial of using stem cells to treat heart diseases, the initial results of which have been "encouraging".
Amish Raval, of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and his team of cardiologists began their trial on March 7.
"If it (using stem cells for cardiac disease) works, it could revolutionize cardiology," said Raval.
Stem cells are primal cells common to all multi-cellular organisms that retain the ability to renew themselves through cell division and can differentiate into a wide range of specialised cell types.
"The initial results from phase I of the trial were encouraging. Subjects reported feeling better with reductions in chest pain and improved exercise capacity during the early stage of the trial. That's encouraging to us," Raval said.
Injecting stem cells isolated from a person's own blood into an ailing heart can repair years of accumulated decay.
So far, clinical studies have produced mixed results; but with ongoing trials scientists and cardiologists like Raval hope to nail down the precise set of conditions needed to effectively heal a sick heart, according to IndoLink, an ethnic Indian newspaper.
As stem cells can be readily grown and transformed into specialised cells with characteristics consistent with cells of various tissues such as muscles or nerves through cell culture, their use in medical therapies has been proposed.
Nearly five million people in the US suffer heart failure caused by damage to the heart that interferes with its ability to pump blood, and nearly a million people suffer heart attacks each year.
The American Heart Association estimates that every year between 125,000 and 250,000 individuals with coronary artery disease develop chronic myocardial ischemia (CMI), one of the most severe forms of coronary artery disease.