SALT LAKE CITY, UT (Ivanhoe Newswire/WTVM) -- Heart researchers are excited about a new study that shows that patients' own stem cells can be supercharged to fix damage. In the University of Utah study, there was a 37% reduction in the number of times heart failure patients went to the hospital or died. Researchers say that has never happened before.
Utah Senator Ralph Okerlund did his work in the Capitol despite two heart attacks and congestive heart failure. But he didn't feel well.
Okerlund reveals, "If I walked from my house out to the mailbox across the street, I'd have to stop a couple of times on the way."
Amit Patel, MD, MS, the Director of Clinical Regenerative Medicine at the University of Utah put the senator in the IX Cell DCM Cell Therapy.
"We basically took the certain cells that were still alive and put them in a healthy environment and basically had their own body start healing the heart," describes Dr. Patel.
Dr. Patel took three tablespoons of bone marrow from patients, and put them in a bioreactor for twelve days to supercharge them.
"So all the young stem cells grew up and all the old weaker cells that had the effects of aging, diabetes and all that died off," explains Dr. Patel.
Then he injected 100 to 200 million healthy stem cells into patients' hearts after mapping out damaged areas. The supercharged cells triggered an immune function to help the heart heal itself. Half the 114 patients in the study got the therapy. Senator Okerlund knew he was one after a few months.
"I still am not out running races. I won't be running any marathons with the damage that has been done to my heart, but I feel well enough now that I can kind of do what I want as long as I move slowly," says Okerlund.
He's excited to have been part of the study and hopes it helps many other people.
The patients who got the placebo in Dr. Patel's current study can now get the treatment because it worked. Dr. Patel said a much larger study needs to be done to prove the cell therapy works before it's available to the general public.