Can Stem Cell Therapy Treat Cardiovascular Disease?
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death across the world. This umbrella term, also referred to as heart disease, collectively includes a broad range of cardiovascular conditions, including:
- Heart failure
- Coronary artery disease
- Myocardial infarction (heart attack)
- Ischemic stroke
While these conditions have unique characteristics, they all affect the heart and blood vessels. For instance, in coronary artery disease, the most common cardiovascular disease, the buildup of plaque (known as atherosclerosis) narrows or blocks the arteries. The arteries harden, limiting the amount of oxygen-rich blood that makes its way to the heart. The heart can therefore not pump blood to the rest of the body as needed. In myocardial infarction, or heart attack, blood clots around the plaque. If the blood flow becomes completely restricted, the heart can no longer get necessary oxygen. In ischemic stroke, the clot prevents the blood flow to the brain.
There are several lifestyle treatments which may help to control cardiovascular disease, including:
- Smoking cessation
- Weight regulation
- Maintaining a healthy diet
- Routine exercise
- Controlling blood pressure and cholesterol
There are also medications and surgical interventions available for certain types of heart disease. With that being said, experts are also exploring stem cell therapy as an alternative or additional treatment.
Stem Cell Therapy for Cardiovascular Disease
Stem cell therapy is the use of the body’s natural, versatile cells to promote healing. Stem cells act as the foundation for other cells and have natural anti-inflammatory properties. As such, they can promote healing in damaged cells and tissues, as well as regeneration. When transplanted into patients with cardiovascular disease, it’s believed that the cells could release healing factors to reduce inflammation, promote new blood vessel development, minimize cell death, and regenerate new, healthy cells.
According to ClinicalTrials.gov, there are more than 1,500 studies that have been or are being conducted regarding the use of stem cells in patients with cardiovascular disease. Scientists have already made strides by discovering several key benefits across a number of cardiovascular conditions. For example, stem cells have been shown to:
- Improve left ventricular function, blood flow, and quality of life following a heart attack.
- Improve the heart’s functional capacity and ventricular remodeling, as well as quality of life, in heart failure.
- Enhance cardiac function in ischemic stroke.
- Improve limb function and decrease muscle atrophy, autoamputation, and connective tissue damage in peripheral artery disease (PAD).
In particular, human umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cells are showing remarkable promise for chronic conditions such as heart disease. They have a number of powerful properties, including:
- No exposure to environmental toxins or impact from the aging process
- High rate of regeneration
- High proliferation ability
- Abundant supply of cells compared to those extracted from adipose tissue or bone marrow
These cells are administered intravenously, and because they are not sourced from the patient themselves, minimize discomfort and recovery time. While stem cell therapy may not be for every patient with cardiovascular disease, the right candidates seeking a safe, non-surgical option may wish to explore the treatment. If you’re interested in exploring stem cell therapy, contact a Care Coordinator for a free assessment!