Science

Umbilical cord stem cells ‘can help improve function in heart failure patients'

The study found that giving an infusion of stem cells intravenously led to significant improvement in the heart's ability to pump blood.

Stem cells taken from the umbilical cords of babies can help improve heart function in people with heart failure, research suggests.

A new study found that giving an infusion of stem cells intravenously led to significant improvement in the heart’s ability to pump blood.

Stem cells are cells that can develop into any kind of cell. They can be found in developing embryos, the umbilical cord of a newborn baby and in some adult tissues such as bone marrow.

In the new study, published in Circulation Research, a journal of the American Heart Association, 30 patients with heart failure aged 18 to 75 were split into two equal groups.

Placenta.
New research suggests stem cells taken from the umbilical cords can help improve heart function (Photosoup/Getty Images)

The first underwent intravenous infusions with stem cells from an umbilical cord while the second received a placebo.

The stem cells had been donated by families following the birth of their babies by caesarean section.

Experts used a series of tests including MRI scans of the heart to calculate the results.

These showed a sustained and “significant” improvement in the heart’s ability to pump blood in the year following stem cell treatment, compared with the effect of placebo.

Stem cell research.
Stem cells can be developed into any kind of cell (Eugeneonline/Getty Images)

Patients who received stem cells also reported a better quality of life and suffered no side-effects.

Fernando Figueroa, professor of medicine at the University of the Andes in Chile, said: “We are encouraged by our findings because they could pave the way to a non-invasive, promising new therapy for a group of patients who face grim odds.”

Lead study author Jorge Bartolucci, a professor at the university, added: “Standard drug-based regimens can be suboptimal in controlling heart failure, and patients often have to progress to more invasive therapies such as mechanical ventricular assist devices and heart transplantation.”

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