Fred Lesikar was playing with his granddaughter when he suddenly felt an intense pain radiating through his chest, back, and arms. By the time he got to the hospital, his heart had already sustained permanent damage. Simple physical tasks like walking around the block became incredibly difficult.
Months after the heart attack, Fred enrolled in a clinical trial in hopes of finding relief. The trial researchers used tissue from Fred’s heart to grow stem cells, which were later placed in his heart. The results were astounding—his heart’s function has improved greatly, and the scar that the attack left on his heart seems to have reduced in size. “I’m in better shape than I’ve been in years,” Fred said.
Since then, more clinical studies have tested stem cell treatments for hearts damaged by heart attacks, and the results have been very promising. Eduardo Marbán, heart researcher and director of the Cedar-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles, and his colleagues used patients’ own heart tissue to grow stem cells. The cells were then put back into the heart around where the damage took place. After treatment, the patients’ heart function improved and their scars seemed to shrink. More studies have been planned using donor tissues to grow the stem cells.