Dr. Joseph Woo’s Stem Cell Treatment for Heart Disease

Nearly a year ago, we posted about British researchers from Bristol University who are looking at stem cells to cure heart diseases. Now, a heart patient named John Christy who was suffering from severe coronary artery disease has been saved by stem cells harvested taken from his bone marrow and which were injected to his heart. According to ABC News Christy, a war veteran, is the first man in the United States to undergo the procedure.

The successful treatment was conducted by Dr. Joseph Woo a cardiothoracic surgeon at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. More from ABC News:

“After five years of research in animals, he [Dr. Woo, editor] is now retrieving stem cells from Christy’s bone marrow and using them to grow blood vessels around the heart. “They form brand new micro blood vessels and deliver blood flow to the heart muscle,” said Woo.

He has started the first U.S. trial where stem cells are harvested during surgery, prepped and then re-inserted back into the patient’s own heart.

Woo says any patient who is a candidate for coronary bypass surgery is a good candidate for his stem-cell transplant.”


Dr. Woo talks more about his stem cell treatment in an interview with ivanhoe.com:

What makes this procedure unique?
Dr. Joseph Woo: Well, the procedure in the trial that we are running is something called a “stem cell CABG”, which is basically a combination of using the traditional operation –taking large vessels and rerouting blood flow to the heart – but also injecting stem cells into areas where we are unable to bring blood flow for reasons of not having coronary arteries that you can bypass, or areas where the heart has been damaged because of destruction of the microvasculature (the small microscopic vessels which are not actually being bypassed). The body’s natural reparative mechanisms for these areas is to mobilize special cells from the bone marrow. These cells are mobilized from the bone marrow, travel through the blood stream, and then enter the area of injury in the heart, where they form brand new micro blood vessels and deliver blood flow to the heart muscle.

How long does it take for them to regenerate?
Dr. Joseph Woo: It happens very quickly. This procedure involves augmenting the body’s natural process of bringing these stem cells to the heart. We actually harvest the bone marrow from the patient, process the cells in a laboratory, and purify the cells before they are delivered into the heart.

This is the first time that this procedure has been done in the United States. Has it been performed before in any European countries?
Dr. Joseph Woo: This has been done in a variety of different locations in Europe and around the world. Most of the other trials involved harvesting a variety of cells and usually storing them for a period of time – sometimes expanding a subpopulation and then redelivering these to the patients. The trial here in the United States has been designed specifically to make it more convenient for the patient so that they will have one procedure at one time; everything will be done while they are asleep so that there isn’t any additional pain, discomfort or inconvenience.

Tell us a little bit about the benefits of this procedure for the patients.
Dr. Joseph Woo: The results that have been seen in the experimental studies as well as the human clinical trials in Europe and elsewhere are that there is an improvement in the pumping function of the heart, and an improvement in the blood flow to the actual heart muscle; that occurs in varying degrees depending upon what cell type and delivery method you are using, and what trial you are talking about.