University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin

Heart Disease Research at University of Wisconsin

— -- The cells that we've been investigating now -- these are bone marrow-derived cells that again we collected from the peripheral circulation injected into the heart. And really these cells have been shown in petri dishes to become new blood vessels -- they collect together, and they form new blood vessels. And so by injecting them as various depose or deposits into the heart, but they might collectively form new blood vessels. Those new blood vessels will then connect up to those healthier arteries that are still in the patient, and they'll then improve blood supply to those portions in the heart which are deficient currently. And so that's really the state of affairs.

This technology seems to work quite well in animals. It remains to be seen whether this will work well in humans, but we're really optimistic. The patients that we've been seeing so far have seemed to have derived benefit. If we extrapolate from animals, then we can sort of guess that perhaps within the first three months that we would expect to see improvements in symptoms. And these are people who present with chronic chest pains when they walk and they can't get any relief with current medications, angioplasty, or even bypass surgery. And many of these people have had these treatments, but it's failed them -- either the bypass grafts have failed or their angioplasty or stents have collapsed, and they've not derived long-term benefit from it. And so therefore, to offer a completely different way of treating them is something that we would really like to explore.

I think we're on the brink of a new revolution of treatments. These are cells, in fact. Cells, we think, that are a little smarter than drugs. Drugs can offer a number of benefits. And actually there's nothing wrong with medications per se. They've been working well for a number of conditions, have improved survival in some cases, improved function of people and improved symptoms in many people.

However, medications we believe can only do so much. If we want to be able to regenerate new muscle, particularly in the heart, or if we want to repair organs to the point where really we can start to peel back on some of the medications, we really have to think outside of the box, and the way to do that perhaps is with cells. These are stem cells that can become the organs -- we know that in animal studies in petri dishes. And there's really a lot of work afoot to see if the same thing will happen in the human body.