Durham, N.C. — People with heart disease have more treatment options than ever. However, sometimes nothing gets rid of continued chest pain known as angina. Researchers say they are looking at a special stem cell therapy to help those patients.
Danny Darden, 49, has heart disease and frequent chest pain despite two years’ worth of every treatment, surgery and medication available to stop it.
“If I walk around the block, I give out and have chest pains,” he said.
Duke cardiologist Dr. Tom Povsic included Darden in a phase 3 trial looking for benefits of a special stem cell therapy to stimulate the growth of new vessels feeding blood to the heart.
“In certain patients, the arteries can no longer be fixed, or bypass surgery can't be used to fix the arteries. And in those patients, novel therapies are sorely needed,” Povsic said. “So, the stem cells in this particular case are obtained from the patient themselves.”
The cells, originating in the bone marrow, are stimulated and released into the blood stream, extracted and then administered directly into the heart through a special catheter.
“Last week, I was injected with the stem cells,” Darden said. “I'm excited to be in it, because I feel it's going to work, and even if it (doesn’t) work for me, it's going to work for other people.”
The study is blind, meaning Darden may have received a fake infusion. Participants are followed for two years. A smaller previous study showed promising results.
“The benefit that was seen in the early study far exceeds what was seen with many medicines that are approved for angina relief,” Povsic said.
Researchers say if the stem cell therapy benefits are confirmed in patients with angina, it could also be studied in patients dealing with stroke, heart attack or heart failure.