Louisville, KY (WHAS11) - Researchers at the University of Louisville say they're close to finding what could be a cure for heart failure. Studies are happening now where people can apply for treatment.
In the Concert Study, University of Louisville Hospital Chief of Cardiology Dr. Roberto Bolli is taking two types of stem cells from a person's damaged heart and using them to regenerate heart tissue potentially curing heart failure.
"I believe that they have the potential to change the future of cardiovascular medicine," Bolli said.
UofL is the principal investigator in this high profile study being conducted by a network of seven universities.
"What we can do at the moment is administer drugs that make patients feel better. That can perhaps prolong life a little bit but they do not solve the underlying problem which is the loss of heart muscle," Bolli said.
Dr Bolli uses minimally invasive therapies to accomplish the treatment. He takes a small biopsy from a person's heart, then grows a couple thousand cells into millions more over 2 to 3 months.
"Then we put them into the same patient so there is no rejection because the cells belong to the patient," Dr. Bolli said.
This 3D echocardiogram shows an actual patient's heart.
On the left is the heart before injection. Dr. Bolli says it's swollen and not moving well, but compare it to the one on the right. That's 12 months after receiving the stem cell treatment.
"It's obvious the heart is smaller, which is good for the heart and it's also working much better than before," Bolli said.
Dr. Bolli considers it a full recovery.
"It is very exciting because heart failure is a huge public health problem. There are 600,000 new cases every year and over 6 million Americans with heart failure,” Dr. Bolli said.
The Concert Study is in its second phase. He says it's going very well. FDA approval requires three successful studies. Dr. Bolli hopes it will happen in less than three years, and then other doctors can use his method to help people with heart failure.
To pay for the study, Dr. Bolli received one of the largest grants for medical research in UofL's history. He received $13.8 million from the National Institutes of Health.
That grant is also helping cancer survivors through his Seneca study. Dr. Bolli is studying using stem cells to cure heart failure in cancer survivors who've developed it because of chemo. It's the first time any cell therapy is used for cancer survivors with heart failure. This study is currently in its first phase.
To ask if you qualify for either study contact Dr. Bolli’s office in the University of Louisville Division of Cardiovascular Medicine at 502-852-1837.