LOS ANGELES – Dr Eduardo Marban, director of the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles, and his wife Linda, research manager for Cedars-Sinai’s Board of Governors Heart Stem Cell Center (right), are blazing a new trail in adult cardiac stemcell research.

In a first-ever clinical trial, a small sample of a patient’s own heart tissue is used to grow specialised heart stem cells. The stem cells are then injected back into the patient’s heart in an effort to repair and re-grow healthy muscle in a heart that has been injured by heart attack.

The trial could start a new era of treating heart disease, which is the top killer of men and women in the US. If cardiac regeneration is possible, then people who suffer heart attacks might be able to achieve greater post-heart-attack productivity and health and, for the most extreme cases, not require heart transplants.

The moral implications of the trial are also profound; no embryo is involved at any stage of the process.

“I come from a culture that’s deeply Catholic,” said Dr Marban, who came to the US from Cuba with his parents when he was six. “For me, that we could develop a treatment that was not ethically problematic, that was consistent with the Hippocratic Oath and the tenets of Catholicism, was very gratifying.”

He added, “By the end of 2011, we’ll release the results of the trial. What we’re doing is still in clinical testing ... and we don’t want to raise false hopes. But we’re onto something. We’re very optimistic.”

Said his wife, Linda, “These adult stem cells are a gift that we hope will lead to long and happy lives for those living with heart disease.” - CNS

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