New drugs can get body to repair heart attack damage

January 9th, 2009 - 4:47 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Jan 9 (IANS) British scientists have developed a stem cell treatment that could dramatically boost the body’s ability to repair itself. The treatment, which makes the bone marrow release a flood of stem cells into the bloodstream, could heal serious tissue damage caused by heart attacks and even repair broken bones.

Scientists already use stem cell therapy to treat leukaemia patients, getting the marrow to release a type of stem cell that can only make fresh blood cells.

Now British researchers say in a study published in the American journal Cell that they have found a way to get the bone marrow to release two other types of stem cell that can repair bone, blood vessels and cartilage.

The bone marrow of treated mice released 100 times as many stem cells, which help to regenerate tissue, said Sara Rankin who led the research team at Imperial College, London.

Rankin said the research has “huge and broad implications”.

“The body repairs itself all the time. However, when the damage is severe, there are limits to what it can do of its own accord.

“We hope that by releasing extra stem cells, as we were able to do in mice in our study, we could potentially call up extra numbers of whichever stem cells the body needs, in order to boost its ability to mend itself and accelerate the repair process,” she said.

“We could potentially call up extra numbers of whichever stem cells the body needs, in order to boost its ability to mend itself and accelerate the repair process.”

The group hopes to begin trials later this year to investigate how effective it is at repairing tissue damage in rodents. “All the evidence suggests these cells will make a significant difference to the natural repair process,” Rankin said.

Peter Weissberg, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, which co-funded the research along with the Welcome Trust, said: “It now seems increasingly likely that the bone marrow also contains cells that have the capacity to repair damaged internal organs, such as the heart and blood vessels, but that too few of them are released to be effective.

“This research has identified some important molecular pathways involved in mobilising these cells. It may be possible to develop a drug that interacts with these pathways to encourage the right number and type of stem cells to enter the circulation and repair damage to the heart.”

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