We are excited about the news that more researchers and medical practitioners are using stem cells extracted from the umbilical cord blood and cord tissue to treat various cardiovascular diseases, hence paving the way for groundbreaking, non-invasive heart disease therapies.
That’s right; treating heart failure using cord blood- and cord tissue-derived stem cells could significantly improve quality of life and heart muscle function, as per a series of recent studies, including one published in 2017 in the American Heart Association journal Circulation Research. Keep reading to learn how umbilical cord tissue is at the forefront of heart disease treatment.
What is Heart Disease and Why Does It Demand Our Attention?
Heart disease is one of the most rampant ailments being battled by the scientific and medical community. In fact, it’s currently the #1 killer of both women and men globally, causing the death of well over 17 million people worldwide annually.
It isn’t a single disease; heart disease is a generic term for multiple conditions that affect one’s cardiovascular system and heart. The conditions that fall under this category include heart failure, heart valve disease, arrhythmia, and coronary artery disease.
Coronary artery disease (or CAD for short) is the most common type of heart disease and results from fatty plaque building up on the walls of coronary arteries, causing blockage of blood flow to the heart. The biggest and most scary consequence of runaway CAD is a heart attack, also known medically as myocardial infarction, which occurs when the heart muscle is deprived of oxygen supply. The outcome of a heart attack isn’t pretty: scar tissue left by dead heart muscle cells.
Picture this: a heart attack occurs in the United States every 40 seconds, with more than 805,000 Americans diagnosed each year having the condition. The trouble with a heart attack is that it causes heart muscle damage, making your heart less efficient at doing its job: pumping blood to where it’s needed. Unfortunately, the heart cells aren’t avid at regenerating, so every heart muscle cell lost during a heart attack won’t be replaced with a new one, leading to tissue scarring.
That means patients who have suffered from a heart attack will suffer from impaired heart muscle function, which, if left untreated, may result in coronary heart failure. That’s a heart condition in which your ticker cannot pump blood with enough power to meet the body’s demand for it.
Together, congestive heart failure and heart attack present a lot of challenges for researchers and healthcare providers alike. But things are changing for the better.
Cord Blood and Cord Tissue: The New Ray of Hope for Heart Disease Treatment
If you have saved your umbilical cord blood and cord tissue or are thinking of doing so, you have one more reason – and a big-hearted one, for that matter – to smile about your forward-thinking decision. You’ll be happy to know that stem cells derived from cord tissue hold immense promise for the treatment of heart failure and other cardiovascular diseases.
The issue with existing cardiovascular disease treatments is that they dwell almost exclusively on symptom management. For instance, most heart failure medications currently on the market are meant to curb hypertension, high cholesterol, and other symptoms but barely tackle the root issue: an organ that has lost many muscle cells. To add insult to injury, heart disease tends to worsen progressively as more heart muscle cells become oxygen-starved and damaged, yet the body is not replacing them.
Enter cord blood and cord tissue stem cells therapies, in which heart muscle function is being restored instead of just managing heart disease symptoms.
How Are Umbilical Cord-Derived Stems Being Used to Treat Heart Disease?
Scientists are making use of newborn stem cells in two key ways to restore heart muscle function and improve heart health.
First of all, researchers are incubating these umbilical cord-derived stem cells in “a dish” to grow new heart muscles in the lab. If someone is genetically predisposed to cardiovascular disease, their stem cells and the regenerated heart muscle can be studied to help scientists in discovering new drugs for heart failure.
Secondly, umbilical cord-extracted stem cells present new and innovative ways of replacing damaged heart muscle cells and tissue. By making use of stem cell therapy, they can use umbilical stem cells to replace or repair heart muscle tissue impaired by heart attacks and congestive heart failure. Even better, researchers may be able to build whole new hearts using these therapies one day.
Unlike symptom-based heart disease treatments, stem cell therapies could offer a more durable avenue for treating heart conditions rather than focusing on the symptoms. And major leaps have already been made in using umbilical cord tissue-derived stem cells to treat heart disease.
For one, there’s the story of Dimitri Bonneville, a 16-year-old boy who received an experimental stem cell therapy back in 2003 to treat and restore his damaged heart muscle. Dimitri reported notable improvement in heart function after stem cell therapy.
A clinical trial is also being conducted to determine the feasibility and safety of using cord blood-derived stem cells in infants born with HLHS (hypoplastic left heart syndrome), a congenital disability in which the heart’s left side doesn’t completely develop. So far, at least one family is happy that their little bundle of joy is on the path to recovery from HLHS, thanks to cord blood stem cell therapy.
It’s All Hands On Deck
There’s also a burgeoning body of research, clinical trials, and late-phase drug developments being conducted when it comes to using cord blood and cord tissue stem cells for heart disease treatment. There’s indeed a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel!