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Cardiac stem cell therapy is used to replace and repair damaged cells in the blood vessels and the walls of the chambers and blood vessels of the heart. Therapies using a patient's own heart tissue stimulated to create stem cells are in the testing and medical study phases as of 2011. One of the main medical areas using cardiac stem cell therapy is in the repair of damage caused to the human heart by heart attacks and degenerative heart disease.
The procedure for completing cardiac stem cell therapy begins with the harvesting of a small amount of tissue from the heart of the person who has suffered a heart attack or who has damage to their cardiac cells from heart disease. Within a laboratory environment, the harvested tissue is divided to obtain stem cells, which are stimulated to multiply into several million stem cells within two months of the process beginning. The grown stem cells are then returned to the patient and inserted into the damaged area of the heart using a catheter balloon to gain access to the chambers of the organ.
Certain types of cardiac cells are targeted in stem cell therapy that are known to respond well to growth in a laboratory. Cardiomyocyte cells are repaired and replaced in cardiac stem cell therapy and are important, as they make up the muscle that moves blood out of the heart's ventricle. Therapy is also used in an attempt to repair the cells that make up the inner lining and walls of new blood vessels. Following the damage caused to the cells by heart disease, stem cells that prompt the development of new blood vessels are important in providing blood and oxygen to the heart.
Attempts at introducing stem cells to a damaged heart from a donor or human embryo have proven ineffective in most cases as of 2011. The use of tissue to grow the stem cells that are later returned to the original donor has proven more effective in returning induced pluripotent stem cells to the body that repair damaged areas of the heart. The cardiac stem cell therapy process is thought to be more effective than using bone marrow cells in an attempt to repair the walls of the chambers and the blood vessels of the heart.
Cardiac stem cell therapy became controversial after the perfecting of the process of removing stem cells from human embryos. The ability to develop stem cells from the tissue of the final recipient has eliminated a large amount of the controversy as of 2011, as this new development has removed the use of human embryo stem cells from the process. Medical research into stem cell therapy remains controversial with animal rights activists because laboratory animals have heart attacks and heart disease induced in them to replicate human heart problems.