Stem cell therapy and heart disease

Approximately 7 million people live with heart disease in the UK[1]
Around 620,000 people in the UK have a defective gene that can cause a hereditary heart condition[1]
In the UK, 12 infants are diagnosed with congenital heart defects every day[1]
Every year there are more than 30,000 cardiac arrests outside of hospital in the UK[1]
The total annual cost of heart disease in the UK is £9 billion[1]

people live with heart disease
in the UK

What is heart disease?

Heart disease, also known as cardiovascular disease, is the number one cause of death in the UK, accounting for more than a quarter of all fatalities[2]. The word “cardiovascular disease” (CVD) includes a wide range of cardiac and blood vessel-related illnesses.

Cardiovascular illnesses include coronary heart disease (CHD), sometimes referred to as ischaemic heart disease, which happens when the blood supply to the heart is low or disrupted. But cardiovascular diseases can also be caused by abnormal electrical activity (arrhythmias), abnormal heart muscle function (cardiomyopathy), or structural defects such as valve or septal defects.

Atherosclerosis is the main cause of CHD – a disorder in which fatty substances form in the walls of the heart-running arteries. This leads them to narrow, reducing oxygen supply, causing chest pain that may lead to a heart attack. Roughly two million individuals in the UK are estimated to be living with CHD.

The World Health Organization estimates that 17.9 million individuals worldwide died of cardiovascular disease in 2019[3], and this number is anticipated to rise to 23 million by 2030 owing to the increasing epidemics of diabetes and obesity.

No less alarming are the statistics in the UK. Each year, 160,000 individuals die from heart-related illnesses and circulatory disease. Of these, 73,000 die from coronary heart disease (CHD).

Stem cell therapy research

Breakthroughs in stem cell therapy research may have identified fresh methods to assist damaged hearts. A number of studies attempt to repair or replace the damaged heart tissue induced by congestive heart failure and heart attacks, using mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs)[4].

As mentioned in the April 10, 2015 issue of the Journal of Circulation Research;
“The idea of using stem or precursor cells has emerged in the last decade as a leading approach for a regenerative strategy to address cardiac disease. In this context, mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are lead candidates for cellular therapy not only for heart disease, but multiple diseases characterized by fibrosis.”[5]

Further research into MSCs for treating heart disease is ongoing and fully endorsed by the British Heart Foundation (BHF);
“The BHF supports essential research using stem cells because we believe they have the potential to cure conditions that are incurable today.”[6]

Researchers are also investigating cardiogenesis and in vitro generation of functional cardiac tissue, using umbilical cord MSCs that they first turn into pluripotent cells.

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