Stem cell therapy developed by Vericel Corp shows promise against heart failure, reducing deaths and hospitalizations specially among those suffering from the most severe stage of the disease. The development now gives hope to patients left with few treatment options.
After a year of follow-up, clinical trial results showed a 37 percent decrease in deaths, hospital admissions and unplanned medical consultations due to heart failure among patients who underwent the stem cell therapy versus placebo.
Patients with end-stage heart failure are often given limited treatment choices, which may include heart transplant and heart pump assistive devices. They are often left with no choice but to undergo invasive procedures to cure their weakening hearts.
Could Stem Cell Therapy Be The Answer?
The study that highlighted the possible benefits of the new treatment is actually a phase two clinical trial of a stem cell therapy called ixmyelocel-T.
In the said treatment, doctors obtain a sample of the patient's bone marrow and process it for two weeks so that it will have an increased number of beneficial stem cells. The doctors then inject the resulting product back to the patient's heart muscle.
The objective is to make the heart stronger by putting more functioning heart muscle cells.
The study involved 109 participants with severe heart failure. The researchers randomly assigned 58 to undergo ixmyelocel-T treatment, while the remaining 51 received a placebo.
After 12 months, 3.4 percent and 37.9 percent of patients who received stem cell treatment died and were hospitalized, respectively. These numbers are lower than the rates among the placebo group, which are 13.7 percent for deaths and 49 percent for hospitalizations.
Also, it took a much longer for the stem cell group to experience the first adverse event than the placebo group.
The patients in the stem cell group also exhibited improvements in other measures, such as walking endurance and amount of blood pumped by the left ventricle of the heart with each contraction.
Study lead author Timothy Henry says the findings of their study strengthen the possibility of decreasing events of severe heart failure. "For patients, this is a really hopeful thing," he adds.
Henry also says treating severe or end-stage heart failure has big unmet needs. "I think this trial provides strong evidence that regenerative therapies are very promising for this group of people, who currently have limited options," he says.
The study was published in the journal The Lancet on April 4.