Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Stem cell research in New Jersey

The Cooper Heart Institute at Cooper University Hospital and the Coriell Institute for Medical Research are working together on the project funded through a $300,000 grant Coriell received from the New Jersey Commission on Science and Technology which in turn was awarded under New Jersey's $5 million stem cell research grant program established in 2004. It is this $5 million program that may entitle the state of New Jersey to lay claim to be the first state to fund stem cell research.

"This is how this kind of research is going to be done," said Dr. Steven Hollenberg, director of the coronary care unit at the Cooper Heart Institute. "It isn't going to be one person in one lab figuring it all out. It's going to be collaborations among researchers from different departments and different institutions."

Biagio Saitta, a molecular biologist at Coriell, is principal investigator of the study. Saitta is also an associate professor of medicine at University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey's-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School at Camden. He is working with Cooper co-investigators Dr. Joseph E. Parrillo, director of Cooper Heart, and Hollenberg. Both Parrillo and Hollenberg are professors of medicine at UMDNJ.

"We have isolated certain stem cells found in umbilical cord blood, and our research will mimic how these cells could repair ischemic cardiac cells (cells without oxygen) isolated from laboratory animals," Saitta said. "This research will enable us to study how tissue responds to damage from scarring, fibrosis and hypertrophy (enlarged heart). Our proposal has great potential for patient care."

Parrillo, the former head of the critical-care medicine department for the National Institutes of Health, described the study of stem cells and heart disease as a potential "first step" toward treating and potentially curing heart disease without the need for complex surgery or heart transplantation.

Hollenberg said research has already shown stem cells from umbilical cord blood decrease remodeling, a process by which the heart enlarges after an attack.
"Interestingly enough, [the stem cells] don't make heart cells," he said. "That would be the expectation -- that they would turn into heart cells, but that doesn't happen."

Other research-->

Examples can be found locally and throughout the world:

* Neuronyx Inc. of Malvern, Pa., is studying the use of adult stem cells derived from bone marrow to treat heart ailments.
* Last May, scientists at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center began a stem cell study in up to 10 heart-failure patients awaiting transplants. Tens of millions of stem cells were isolated from each of the patients' bone marrow and injected into their diseased hearts. The researchers are studying the effect the injected stem cells had on the patients' damaged hearts by studying the organ after it is removed prior to the transplant.
* Last October, doctors in London launched a study testing three different types of stem cell therapy in 700 heart patients.
* Researchers at both the University of Texas and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore have reported positive results in animal studies testing the ability of stem cells to repair damage to the heart caused by attacks.
* Last month, Baxter Healthcare Corp. of Deerfield, Ill., initiated what it described as the first human phase-II adult stem cell therapy trial testing the ability of blood-derived stem cells to improve the symptoms and clinical outcomes in patients with chronic myocardial ischemia, a severe form of coronary artery disease.
* Also last month, however, German researchers at Technische Universitat in Munich released the results of a study that found an experimental therapy using stem cells derived from bone marrow was ineffective in treating cardiac tissue and blood vessels damaged by heart attacks.


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