Stents and pacemakers are lifesavers, but something new promises to improve recovery for heart patients. Doctors are training the organ to heal itself by coordinating a delivery like no other.
Cardiologists have devised a way to deposit special genes deep inside the heart -- genes charged with a repair that has so far been elusive.
"The genes are acting, as it was explained to me, like a vacuum cleaner to attract your own natural stem cells to the muscle they are trying to rejuvenate," explained Peter Giraldi.
Giraldi recently recovered from a massive heart attack. He's stable now, and hopes the experimental procedure might help his damaged heart grow stronger.
"They didn't think I was going to make it," Giraldi continued.
Giraldi is participating in a clinical trial at Florida Hospital Tampa's Pepin Heart Institute. Researchers are evaluating the effectiveness of a procedure called Retro HF.
Cardiologists thread a catheter to the heart through the leg, and implant genes that act as a biological blueprint or beacon.
"It helps stem cells to hone in on that area, where the molecule has been delivered and transform themselves into other types of cells, to heal myocardial damage," explained medical director Dr. Charles Lambert.
The healing stem cells don't come from a donor. They're already in our body, floating in our blood stream. The hope is they'll grow new blood vessels and muscle, and help the heart pump more effectively.
"Their hearts are shrinking," continued Dr. Lambert.
Patients who have blockages, stents, and overall poor heart function appear to benefit most.
The process still needs to be FDA approved, before it's available to the public. Patients say it's restoring hope of a better, healthier life.
"As long as I'm kicking, I'm going to do everything I can to stick around as long as I can," added Giraldi.
FLORIDA HOSPITAL TAMPA'S CLINICAL TRIAL PROGRAMS:
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