Over five million Americans suffer from some form of chronic heart failure (CHF), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Chronic heart failure is a serious condition that results from the heart’s inability to send enough oxygenated blood throughout the body to meet the body’s core needs.
Symptoms and Cost of CHF
Symptoms of chronic heart failure include breathing problems, fatigue and swelling in the body’s limbs due to inadequate blood flow.
Although chronic heart failure may be precipitated by a heart attack or high blood pressure, chronic heart failure is a more pervasive condition that sufferers often live with for years.
In fact, approximately one in ten deaths in the United States are partly attributable to chronic heart failure. Moreover, treating chronic heart failure is increasingly important since the disease has a very poor long-term prognosis.
One half of chronic heart failure sufferers die within five years of diagnosis, and the disease costs the medical establishment, insurance companies and overarching US economy over $30 billion annually.
Stem Cell Therapy for Chronic Heart Failure
Chronic heart failure is currently diagnosed with a combination of techniques, including echocardiography and blood tests. The condition is also treated in a number of ways depending on the severity of the heart’s inability to pump oxygenated blood throughout the body.
Lifestyle changes like a cessation of smoking and more rigorous exercise regimen can help combat some of the symptoms of chronic heart failure. For more serious forms of chronic heart failure, medications like beta blockers and nitrates or even a pacemaker might be used to improve the functioning of the patient’s heart.
That said, doctors are now looking for ways in which the heart’s tissue could be regenerated with the help of stem cells.
Stem cell therapy has already shown promise in alleviating chronic heart failure symptoms in human patients. Patients having undergone stem cell therapy report feeling more energized throughout the day and having an easier time breathing.
The implementation of stem cell therapy across a number of diseases, generally, has spawned something of a paradigm shift among medical practitioners.
This is because stem cell therapy is putting researchers and doctors alike on the cusp of actually curing diseases instead of merely treating the symptoms via drugs and encouraging patients to adopt different lifestyle changes.
How Stem Cell Therapy Works
Stem cells are currently being harvested from FAT – at which point the stem cells are altered in the laboratory to coax those hematopoietic stem cells into cardiac cells compatible with a CHF patient’s body.
Once the stem cells are turned into cardiac cells, this helps the patient grow healthier heart tissue and improves symptoms of chronic heart failure in the process.
Since various forms of cardiac disease are the leading cause of death around the any attempt to move beyond palliative care and medicating patients to merely combat symptoms should be welcomed.
Stem cell therapy and the harvesting of stem cells from FAT has already been shown to help regenerate healthier heart tissue in some patients.
The field of stem cell therapy is still in its infancy, especially as it relates to treating CHF. That said, researchers are studying the factors at play with respect to cardiogenesis – or proper heart development – to determine the proteins and transcription factors that spur on stem cells to become cardiac ones.
With more research, stem cell therapy could one day replace or crucially supplement palliative treatment of chronic heart failure.