Ottawa research team leading study that allows heart to heal itself

OTTAWA A team of cardiac researchers led by Ottawa scientists has launched groundbreaking clinical trials of a stem cell therapy that helps the heart heal itself.

About 70,000 Canadians have a heart attack each year. While many patients return to health after treatment, others suffer from scarring, which affects the chance of long-term survival.

Scar tissue leads to stretching of the heart and that leads to consequences, including heart failure and early death, says Dr. Duncan Stewart, the CEO and scientific director of the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and the trials lead principal investigator.

This trial enlists stem cells and their amazing ability to help organs regenerate. The first study participant is Harriet Garrow, 68, who had a heart attack on July 2 at home in Cornwall.

After her heart stopped beating, Garrow was resuscitated by paramedics and taken to a hospital in Cornwall, then transferred to the University of Ottawa Heart Institute.

She received all available heart attack therapies, including opening up a blocked artery with a balloon catheter, but her heart had still had extensive damage. She agreed to the experimental therapy and had an infusion on July 25.

Like all the participants, Garrow doesnt know if she received stem cells, lab-enhanced stem cells or a placebo. But she notes that on Sunday she walked up the 13 stairs in her home for the first time since her heart attack.

I feel good, she says. Not quite back to normal, but better than last week.

In about a dozen studies on about 2,000 patients, stem cells have already been proven to have modest but promising benefits. The problem is heart attack patients stem cells dont have the same healing powers as those from young, healthy patients, says Stewart.

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Ottawa research team leading study that allows heart to heal itself

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