stem cells

PHOENIX, Arizona — Your stem cells may one day treat chest pain.

A non-surgical treatment that uses patients’ bone marrow stem cells improved chest pain symptoms and the level and length of time patients could be physically active, in preliminary research presented today at the American Heart Association’s Basic Cardiovascular Sciences 2016 Scientific Sessions.

Angina is chest pain or discomfort caused when the heart doesn’t get enough oxygen-rich blood due to narrowing or blockages in the arteries leading to the heart.

Most studies that have explored stem-cell therapies for angina required surgery to directly inject stem cells into the heart muscle or the heart blood vessels.

“We injected a ‘catalyst’ molecule that caused bone marrow stem cells to enter the patient’s blood, then harvested them to re-inject into the patient,” said Hadyanto Lim, Ph.D., study senior author and professor of pharmacology at The Methodist University of Indonesia in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia. “This is not considered a surgical procedure, is easy to implement and allows for repeated administrations.”

For the study, 15 patients were first injected with the molecule granulocyte colony stimulating factor once a day for four days. G-CSF stimulates stem cells to migrate into the bloodstream from the bone marrow where they reside. Stem cells can transform into different types of cells.

On the fourth day, three hours after the last G-CSF injection, blood was drawn and stem cells were separated from the blood. Stem cells were identified by the presence of a protein called CD34 on the cell’s surface. Thirty minutes after the cell separation procedure, the collected stem cells were injected back into the patient through an IV.

Four weeks after receiving the treatment, patients had significantly fewer angina-related symptoms and could exercise at a higher intensity and for a longer period. Most patients also reported mild muscle pains in their backs or legs, but the pain could be managed with acetaminophen.

The treatment — used for some cancers such as multiple myeloma and lymphoma — will need more investigation before it can be made available to the general public to treat angina, Lim said.