Patients who recently have suffered an acute heart attack are being recruited for a new Emory University School of Medicine clinical study using stem cells generated within the bone marrow to grow new blood vessels to improve circulation around the heart and enhance its function.

Although many patients recover at least partially from heart attacks, approximately 70 percent suffer permanent damage because the artery blockage causing the attack keeps oxygen from reaching parts of the heart muscle. At this time there are no available treatments to restore the function of damaged heart muscle.

Although the heart muscle cannot repair itself, recent studies show that when muscles do not receive enough blood, the body makes growth factors that stimulate the bone marrow to release progenitor or stem cells that “home” to the muscle and develop into new blood vessels or help repair damaged ones.

The study will enroll patients who have had acute heart attacks within the past four to five days. Study participants will already have received the standard of care for their condition, including cardiac catheterization, angioplasty and implantation of a stent in the blocked artery. Patients then will be randomized to receive the stem cell treatment or to be part of a control group receiving no additional treatment. The study also will test different doses of the stem cell therapy to determine which dose is most effective.

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