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Stem cell treatment for chronic ischaemic heart disease and congestive heart failure

Fisher SA, Brunskill SJ, Doree C, Mathur A, Taggart DP, Martin-Rendon E
Published Online: 
29 April 2014

Those suffering from heart disease and heart failure are currently treated with drugs and, when possible, the blood supply is restored in the heart (revascularisation) either by opening the arteries with a tiny balloon in a procedure called primary angioplasty (or percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI)) or by heart surgery (or coronary artery bypass graft (CABG)). Revascularisation has reduced the death rate associated with these conditions. In some people heart disease and heart failure symptoms persist even after revascularisation. Those people may not have other treatments available to them. Recently, bone marrow stem/progenitor cells have been investigated as a new treatment for people with heart disease and heart failure, whether they are also treated for revascularisation or not. Results from 23 randomised controlled trials, covering more than 1200 participants, to 2013 indicates that this new treatment leads to a reduction in deaths and readmission to hospital and improvements over standard treatment as measured by tests of heart function. At present, these results provide some evidence that stem cell treatment may be of benefit in people both with chronic ischaemic heart disease and with heart failure. Adverse events are rare, with no long-term adverse events reported. However, the quality of the evidence is relatively low because there were few deaths and hospital readmissions in the studies, and individual study results varied. Further research involving a large number of participants is required to confirm these results.