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expert reaction to the Heart Cells Foundation launching The Compassionate Treatment Programme which will treat heart disease patients with their own stem cells

Researchers publishing in the Journal of Cachexia, Sarcopenia and Muscle launch The Compassionate Treatment Programme which will treat heart disease patients with their own stem cells.

All our previous output on this subject can be seen here.


Prof. Sir Nilesh Samani, Medical Director at the BHF, said:

“When someone suffers a major heart attack, there can be serious damage to the heart, leaving many people with disabling heart failure.

“Research in to regenerative medicine is promising and advancing quickly and may one day offer the potential of helping to repair heart muscle damage for the thousands of patients devastated by heart failure.

“However, the evidence of the benefits of current stem cell therapies based on bone-marrow derived cells is limited and it is important that false hope is not raised amongst patients”.

“We need to undertake much more research into regenerative medicine and its efficacy and safety before it becomes a viable treatment.”


Prof. John Martin FMedSci, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine, UCL, said: 

“The heart failure caused by Dilated Cardiomyopathy has had no specific treatment till now. However following the publication of the results of a well-controlled clinical trial the use of a patient’s own bone marrow cells is a step change in treating this crippling disease. The Heart Cells Foundation compassionate use programme at Bart’s is bringing this treatment to patients in need.”


Dr Tim Chico, Reader in Cardiovascular Medicine, University of Sheffield, said:

“It is extremely important this announcement does not raise false hope for the thousands of people living with heart disease.  Although stem cell treatment has sometimes appeared to provide small benefits in some forms of heart failure, many questions remain to be answered about who could benefit, what type of stem cells are most effective, and how these should be delivered. Many studies of stem cells have shown little or no benefit, and most patients living with heart disease will not be suitable for stem cell treatment. This announcement should not be taken as a sign that the benefits of stem cells are completely proven and that no further clinical studies are required; this is far from the case.

“Patients and their families should certainly be encouraged by the huge efforts scientists and doctors are making to try to find new treatments for heart disease, but this is a long process, and it remains uncertain whether stem cell therapy will provide the improvements in length and quality of life that it’s advocates hope.”


Prof. Giulio Cossu, Constance Thornley Professor of Regenerative Medicine, University of Manchester, said:

“This is an important initiative that should be welcomed. However, it is important to remember that many clinical trials based upon transplantation of bone marrow progenitor/stem cells in the heart for several cardiac diseases have already been conducted and a recent survey of all the available data, published last year in Cochrane Database Syst Rev. concludes that ” there is insufficient evidence for a beneficial effect of cell therapy for patients with an Acute Myocardial Infarct. However, most of the evidence comes from small trials that showed no difference in clinically relevant outcomes. Further adequately powered trials are needed and until then the efficacy of this intervention remains unproven”.

“Therefore, since further work is necessary, the Compassionate Treatment Programme is an important step in the right direction.”


Declared interests

Prof. John Martin:  “I am a Trustee of the Heart Cells Foundation.”

Dr Tim Chico: “I am a committee member and Treasurer of the British Atherosclerosis Society, a charity established in 1999 to promote UK atherosclerosis research.”

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