Modified bone marrow cells are being used to replace damaged heart cells in patients who have suffered a heart attack. The team of scientists at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, USA have successfully replaced damaged heart cells in rats with modified bone marrow cells by genetic engineering techniques.
A heart attack occurs when the blood supply to part of the heart muscle is severely reduced or stopped. The reduction or stoppage happens when one or more of the blood vessels supplying blood to the heart muscle is blocked. This leads to a heart attack. If the blood supply is cut off for more than a few minutes, muscle cells suffer permanent injury and die. This can kill or disable someone, depending on how much heart muscle is damaged.
The scientists at Boston used bone marrow cells called mesenchymal stem cells. To these cells they added a gene called Akt1. This gene can prevent transplanted cells from dying. The cells were then transplanted in rat hearts, which had been given artificial heart attacks. The stem cells attached themselves with the heart cells and generated more heart-like cells, thus repairing the damaged heart and restoring heart function.
This technique holds immense promise for millions of people who develop damaged heart, due to heart attacks.