BACKGROUND:  Heart failure is a very common condition, affecting 5.8 million people in the U.S.  It is a condition where the heart can’t pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs.  In some cases, the heart can’t pump blood to the rest of the body with enough force.  In others, the heart can’t fill with enough blood; some people have both problems.  “Heart failure” doesn’t mean that the heart has stopped working, but it is still a serious medical condition that needs immediate care.  The condition can develop over time as the heart’s ability to pump gets weaker.  In many incidences, it involves both sides of the heart.  Right-side heart failure occurs when the heart can’t pump enough blood to the lungs to pick up oxygen.  Left-side heart failure happens if the heart can’t pump enough oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body.  Other names for heart failure are called congestive heart failure and cor pulmonale (this refers to right-side heart failure caused by high blood pressure in the pulmonary arteries and right ventricle).  (Source:


CAUSES:  Conditions that overwork or damage the heart muscle can cause heart failure.  The heart weakens over time and is not able to fill with or pump blood as well as it used to.  As it weakens, certain proteins and substances might be released into the blood.  The substances are toxic on the heart and blood flow, causing heart failure to worsen.  Common conditions that cause heart failure include:

  • Coronary Heart Disease—A waxy substance (called plaque) builds up inside the coronary arteries.  Plaque narrows the arteries and reduces blood flow to your heart muscle.
  • High Blood Pressure—If blood pressure rises and stays high, it can weaken the heart and cause plaque buildup.  Blood pressure is high if it is at or above 140/90 mmHG over time.
  • Diabetes—High blood sugar levels can damage and weaken the heart muscle and the blood vessels around the heart, leading to hear failure. 



NEW TECHNOLOGY:  Treatment for heart failure depends on the type and stage.  Treatments usually include lifestyle changes, medicines, and ongoing care.  However, a phase 2 clinical trial offers another possible treatment option.  So far, the study has shown that a patient’s own bone marrow stem cells improved heart function in some patients with progressive heart failure due to dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).  "An increasing number of patients have progressive heart failure due to DCM, even after treatment with drug therapy and surgical intervention," Dr. Timothy Henry, principal investigator, director of research, and an interventional cardiologist at the Minneapolis Heart Institute, was quoted as saying. "In this study, patients treated with ixmyelocel-T showed repair in damaged heart muscle and some reversal in heart failure symptoms."  The treatment involves both stem cells and immune cells that are primed to do the job, instead of focusing only on one gene or cell type.  Ixmyelocel-T was developed by culturing a patient’s bone marrow for 12 days in order to increase the numbers of immune cells, including monocytes and macrophages, along with mesenchymal cells (stem cells that can differentiate into several different cell types).  The treatment was then injected into the patient’s heart muscles to encourage new tissue growth and improve inflammation.  The study involved 22 ischemic (IDCM) and non-ischemic (NIDCM) patients with moderate to severe heart failure.  Patients were randomly chosen to receive the treatment or a placebo. They were followed at three, six, and twelve month intervals.  "Treatment with ixmyelocel-T was well-tolerated, and patients who received the cell therapy showed improved symptoms after one year. Although the study is preliminary and involved only a small group of patients, its results suggest the treatment is safe and provides a strong basis for a larger clinical trial,” Dr. Henry was quoted as saying. (Source:


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Timothy D Henry, MD

Director of Research

Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation

(612) 863-3833