TORONTO – Canadian researchers have treated the first patient in a clinical trial using genetically enhanced stem cells to repair damaged heart muscle after a major heart attack.
The experimental therapy uses stem cells extracted from a patient’s blood soon after their heart attack.
The cells are enhanced with a gene that stimulates blood vessel growth and improves tissue healing, then infused into the patient’s heart.
Principal investigator Dr. Duncan Stewart says the goal is to stimulate repair, reduce scar tissue and restore the heart’s ability to pump blood efficiently.
The trial will enrol 100 patients over two years, starting with patients at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute and St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.
A third of the participants will receive genetically enhanced stem cells, a third non-enhanced stem cells and a third a placebo.
“Stem cells have incredible potential to repair and regenerate damaged organs, but cells that come from heart attack patients don’t have the same healing abilities as those from young, healthy adults,” said Stewart, CEO and scientific director of the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute.
“Our strategy is to rejuvenate these stem cells by providing extra copies of a gene that is essential for their regenerative activity … to help the heart fix itself.”