Stem Cells Isolated From Surgery Leftovers

Scientists at England’s University of Bristol have extracted stem cells from sections of vein removed for heart bypass surgery. Their research indicates that these stem cells can stimulate new blood vessel growth—meaning they could be useful in repairing heart tissue damaged during a heart attack. Dr. Paolo Madeddu, Professor of Experimental Cardiovascular Medicine and his research team in the Bristol Heart Institute (BHI) at the University of Bristol recently published the results of their research in the journal Circulation.

“This is the first time that anyone has been able to extract stem cells from sections of vein left over from heart bypass operations,” Dr. Paolo Madeddu said in a press release published by the university. “These cells might make it possible for a person having a bypass to also receive a heart treatment using their body’s own stem cells.”

During heart bypass surgery, surgeons remove a portion of a patient’s leg vein. This vein is then grafted onto the blocked or narrowing coronary artery and helps restore blood flow to the heart. During the procedure, surgeons typically remove a longer length of leg vein than is needed.

In their research, scientists isolated stem cells from the leftover veins donated by heart bypass patients. The researchers inserted these stem cells into mice and were able to stimulate new blood vessel growth in injured leg muscles.

Repairing a damaged heart is the holy grail for heart patients,” Professor Peter Weissberg, Medical Director of the British Heart Foundation, stated in the press release. “The discovery that cells taken from patients own blood vessels may be able to stimulate new blood vessels to grow in damaged tissues is a very encouraging and important advance. It brings the possibility of cell therapy for damaged hearts one step closer and, importantly, if the chemical messages produced by the cells can be identified, it is possible that drugs could be developed to achieve the same end.

Funding for this research was provided by the British Heart Foundation.

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