In a strange mixing of the beauty of the heart and the science of the mind, doctors at Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute made history on June 26, 2009 by injecting stem cells from a damaged human heart back into the heart of the original donor!
After undergoing extensive imaging so doctors can pinpoint the exact location and severity of the scars wrought by the heart attack, the patient undergoes a minimally-invasive biopsy, with local anesthesia. Using a catheter inserted through a vein in the patient’s neck, doctors remove a small piece of heart tissue, about half the size of a raisin.
The heart tissue is then taken to a specialized lab at Cedars-Sinai, where heart stem cells are cultured using methods invented by Marbán and his team. It takes about four weeks for the cells to multiply to numbers sufficient for therapeutic use, approximately 10 to 25 million.
In the third and final step, the now-multiplied stem cells are re-introduced into the patient’s coronary arteries during a second catheter procedure.
All patients in the study had to have experienced heart attacks within four weeks prior to enrolling in the research project. Four patients will receive 12.5 million stem cells and two patients will serve as controls. Later this summer, it is anticipated that 12 more patients will undergo procedures to receive 25 million stem cells, while six additional patients will be monitored as controls.
This procedure is a divine testing of the Gods: Are we their reflection or is man still the measure of all things?
It would, however, be heartbreaking to be invited to join the study — only to find out later you were one of the two unlucky control patients. Such are the wages of scientific investigation against the theoretical aesthetic.