The utility of stem cells in medicine has long been debated, and researchers are now proceeding to human studies to see how they can be used to treat disease. According to a new study in Circulation Research, patients with hard-to-treat chest pains reported feeling better after doctors injected them in the heart with stem cells taken from their bone marrow, says Technology Review's Karen Weintraub. The research shows that the cells were able to heal tiny, damaged blood vessels that can't be treated with typical procedures like stents and angioplasty. The researchers used a particular stem cell, CD34+, which is thought to promote blood vessel growth. The researchers harvested them from bone marrow, amplified them, and injected them directly into the damaged part of the heart, Weintraub says. Cardiologists say this research is cause for optimism in treating heart problems, though much work remains to be done.
In a separate procedure, surgeons in California funded by biotech company Advanced Cell Technology have implanted lab-grown retinal cells into the eyes of two patients going blind from macular degeneration, says Technology Review's Antonio Regalado. The company recently won FDA approval to test their cells, grown from human embryonic stem cells, on people.