Will Stem Cell Research Change Treatment of Heart Disease?


Q: I’ve been reading a lot about stem cells recently. Will stem cell research change the treatment of heart disease?

A: There’s some exciting early data where scientists have been able to use stem cells for regeneration of cardiac tissue, in particular certain parts of the heart or maybe even an entire heart in mice or rats.

However, it’s not been done yet in humans reliably and that would be the next step. If the research bears out, we may see this as an option for heart patients in perhaps five to 10 years.

The area where stem cells might first be used is in patients who have had damage to their heart because of a heart attack. These patients have scarring on the heart and that area of the heart is not beating anymore. If we can regenerate cardiac tissue to replace this scarred tissue, the hope is to get the heart fully working again.

Growing whole new hearts will likely be later down the line and will depend on the success of the research.

— Preventive cardiologist Haitham Ahmed, MD, MPH