|From left, Dr. Duncan Stewart, lead principal investigator of the ENACT-AMI stem cell therapy trial, Harriet Garrow, who is part of a stem cell trial and her husband Peter Garrow during a press conference at the Ottawa Hospital General Campus September 5, 2013. (QMI Agency) |
OTTAWA -- A massive heart attack prompted Harriet Garrow to become the first patient participating in a groundbreaking clinical trial headquartered in the nation's capital.
"I am thrilled to play a part in this research," said Garrow, 68, of Cornwall, Ont.
Using a patient's own stem cells -- extracted from their blood shortly following a major heart attack -- to regenerate the damaged organ, Enhanced Angiogenic Cell Therapy-Acute Myocardial Infarction is a promising game-changer.
Cells are enhanced then infused back into the patient's heart using special catheters.
Stem cells have "incredible potential to repair and regenerate damaged organs," although cells from heart patients don't have the same healing abilities as those from healthy young adults, Stewart said.
Whether the procedure is replacing damaged cells or helping damaged cells recover is anyone's guess.
Nonetheless, "we know that if we improve the function of the heart, we improve the patient's survival and we improve how well the patient feels -- reduce their symptoms of shortness of breath or chest pain -- and hopefully we make them live longer and live better," said Dr. Chris Glover, one of Garrow's physicians.
It's unknown which group Garrow was in: those receiving a placebo, genetically enhanced stem cells, or non-enhanced stem cells.
That may be revealed at the end of the study, which could take three years, Stewart said.
Garrow was at home July 2 when she felt pain under her left arm and numbness in her hand.
Paramedics resuscitated her and Garrow was admitted to hospital in Cornwall then transferred to the University of Ottawa Heart Institute.
An estimated 100 patients will be treated at the Heart Institute and St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto over two years.
Patients aren't exempted from attending cardiac rehabilitation and making dietary and lifestyle changes, Glover said.
"This study is therapy on top of best medical therapy," he said.
Eligible participants must enrol within 30 days of suffering a heart attack and be treated at participating hospitals.
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