A recent study by the Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions (SCAI) in Orlando, Florida has shown that stem cell therapy could potentially be used to ease refractory angina; a previously difficult to treat condition.
Refractory angina (RA) is an increasingly common illness that is estimated to affect around a million Americans. RA is caused by severe blockages in the heart, which restrict blood flow and cause life-limiting issues such as chest pains, tiredness, dizziness, and a shortness of breath. Unlike many other types of angina, refractory angina isn’t responsive to the usual treatments such as lifestyle changes, surgery, and medication.
Test subjects in the trial were transplanted with CD34+ cells which were self-donated. These cells were chosen as previous studies had shown that patients with coronary artery disease had a better outcome if the CD34+ levels in their bone marrow were high. Out of 112 patients studied in the trial, 57 of them received CD34+ cells, while the others received a placebo.
In follow up sessions at three, six, and 12 months, it was found that patients who had received the stem cell treatment were able to exercise for longer, and that their risk of a major angina attack had decreased.
At the two year follow up, it was found that patients who had received the stem cells had a lower rate of mortality.
The study found that the positive effects of stem cell therapy tended to decrease over time, which would mean that if this kind of therapy would need to be administered regularly.
SCAI unfortunately had to cut the study short due to funding issues, and although the original plan was to see 444 patients with refractory angina, only 112 were used in the trial. However, the results could be an exciting step towards creating better therapy for patients with difficult to treat heart conditions.