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New Stem Cell Research Shows Promise for Heart Disease Patients

Doctors in the U.S. are doing some promising new research with stem cells that could help anyone with heart disease. They are using adult stem cells, which are found in everyone's body, to repair damaged hearts and blood vessels.

Doctors have discovered a new way the human body can repair itself. Adult stem cells, which are found in the brain, bones, muscle, skin and blood, help heal the body after an injury.

Dr. Amit Patel, of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, says researchers are injecting high concentrations of these cells into patients to improve arteries, even build new ones. “What we do is actually take them out and find the right amount of cells and specifically put them into targeted areas."

It is working. Three months after the injections, more than 100 patients saw significant improvement in blood flow to the heart and the heart muscle worked twice as well as before the treatment. Dr. Patel says all heart patients could benefit from this therapy.

Adult stem cells are also being used to grow arteries in the leg. Dr. Richard Burt of Northwestern Memorial Hospital is treating 27-year-old Jeremy Kotner, who had so little blood flow to his right leg, he faced amputation.

Dr. Richard Burt of Northwestern Memorial Hospital points out, "You can see where the blood vessel is blocked. You can see the blood flowing and then it just stops. Now, three months later, after injection of stem cells in that area, you can see that there's a new vessel bringing the blood down."

Jeremy Kotner is relieved. "The constant pain is gone. I can walk further and because of that I feel a lot better."

Researchers say when it comes to building blood vessels, using your own cells could become a common treatment within a few years -- very good news for the millions of people who suffer from heart disease.