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The Division of Cardiology at Stony Brook University Medical Center is participating in a clinical trial on the use of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) to treat individuals who have had a first heart attack, or myocardial infarction (MI). The study is part of a multi-national National Institutes of Health (NIH)-approved clinical trial involving 40 sites in the United States and Canada. The SBUMC arm of the study is the only one on Long Island and one of two in New York State.

The American Heart Association estimates that 600,000 Americans will experience a first MI this year. Some suffer permanent cardiac damage, and approximately 18 percent of men and 23 percent of women over the age of 40 will die within a year after experiencing a first MI. While many MI patients who get to a hospital early enough (within 6-to-12 hours) can undergo successful coronary interventions that will limit the damage to the heart, only a minority reach the hospital within the allotted time and will have permanent cardiac damage that can lead to heart failure.

"Although MSCs are not completely understood, there is evidence from research that these cells seek out and move to damaged areas of the body to aide in repair of damaged tissues," says Luis Gruberg, M.D., Principal Investigator and Director of the Cardiovascular Catheterization Laboratories, and Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology. “"We hope that the MSCs will help the heart muscle recover following a myocardial infarction by reducing the inflammation, as well as repairing the damaged heart tissue."

Dr. Gruberg explains that MSCs, which reside in human bone marrow, have shown potential in treating many types of diseases, including orthopedic, cardiac, gastrointestinal conditions and cancer. The nature of MSCs is that they differentiate into various cell types, including those for nerves, bone, and muscle. Considered universal stem cells, MSCs are not likely to provoke an immune response.

Dr. Gruberg adds that a number of preclinical studies suggest that MSCs could limit pathological changes to the heart muscle and preserve or improve cardiac function.

Approximately 220 patients will be enrolled in the study. Men and women who have had a first MI and are between the ages of 21 and 85 are eligible. All patients must have experienced a first MI within seven days prior to trial entry and have an infarct related artery confirmed by coronary angiography at the start of the trial.

Patients will receive either MSCs or a placebo through an intravenous line as treatment. All patients will be followed for two years and will have follow-up exams at SBUMC, which include lung function tests, echocardiogram, cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and stress tests.

For more information about the clinical trial of MSCs for patients with a first MI, call the Division of Cardiology at Stony Brook University Medical Center at 631-444-1066.
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