Leftover veins can help treat future heart problemsApril 26th, 2010 - 1:26 am ICT by IANS
London, April 25 (IANS) Researchers have found that human veins left over from lifesaving bypass surgery could be a source of “master” cells that can help treat future heart problems.
Stem cells have been popular area of research because they have the ability to produce many different types of human cells, thus opening up the possibility of repair or renewal for tissues ravaged by disease or injury.
Patients with heart disease often have blocked or narrowed arteries supplying the heart muscle. The lack of blood leaves the muscle damaged, and this can cause chest pain or even a heart attack.
A heart bypass operation takes a section of vein, usually from the patient’s leg, and uses it to replace a blocked or narrowed section of heart artery.
During the study, researchers from University of Bristol extracted stem cells from the veins, then used them to stimulate new blood vessel growth in mice.
They found that when the stem cells were injected into the leg muscle of a mouse which had been deprived of blood to simulate conditions in a damaged heart, the cells appeared to trigger the development of new blood vessels and improve blood flow.
“This is the first time that anyone has been able to extract stem cells from sections of vein left over from heart bypass operations,” bbc.co.uk quoted lead researcher professor Paolo Madeddu as saying.
“These cells might make it possible for a person having a bypass to also receive a heart treatment using their body’s own stem cells,” Madeddu added.
However, other experts said much more work would be needed before such cells could be used widely in humans.
Professor Qingbo Xu, from King’s College London, said the mechanisms by which the cells worked needed to be more fully understood.
“It’s possible this could be a future treatment, although not at the same time as the heart bypass surgery, as it takes some time to extract and grow these cells in the laboratory.
“But there is a long way to go before we can have a clinical application for this.”
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