Acute myocardial infarctions (AMI), commonly known as heart attacks, are responsible for about 12.6% of deaths worldwide, according to The World Health Report 2004 – Changing History. In the United States, about 16.6% of those who have heart attacks die within 30 days of the attack. Outside of AIDS and a few infectious diseases, AMI is the biggest killer of adults.
An AMI is essentially caused by a blockage of the coronary arteries which leads to cellular damage of some of the heart muscle (myocardium). This prognosis can be minor to deadly, depending on a lot of issues such as other cardiovascular risk profile (diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, smoking and others), quality of treatment, and severity of the tissue damage. Over the past few years, treatments have improved the outlook for AMI sufferers, but the risk of a subsequent heart attacks and mortality rates are still high.
There are a number of preventative therapies that are available to reduce the risk of AMI’s, including angioplasty (percutaneous coronary intervention) and pharmaceuticals (cholesterol reducing and blood pressure management medications are commonly used prophylactically).
Currently, the standard of care after a heart attack is opening the closed artery with an angioplasty, then placing a stent to maintain potency of the artery (with the hope of preventing restenosis). However, there are few alternatives for actually repairing the damage done by the AMI to the heart muscle.
One of the more promising research directions is the use of bone marrow stem cells (BMSC) and progenitor cells in attempting to reverse or repair the damage to the heart muscle. In a Cochrane Reviews article, Stem cell treatment for acute myocardial infarction, data from 1700 patients in 33 clinical trials was reviewed. Their conclusion:
❝The Cochrane Review’s findings suggest that stem cell therapy using BMSCs can produce moderate long-term improvement in heart function, as well as reduction of scars, which are sustained for up to five years. However, there were not enough data available to reach firm conclusions about improvements in survival rates.❞
Good news, but more data needs to be accumulated over the next few years to allow us to conclude that stem cell research is an improved therapy.
And one more therapy, in a huge list of therapies, that benefits from stem cells. The anti-stem cell lunacy (why are these lunatics always against something and never in favor of science?) has saved zero lives. Let’s make sure they stay away.