Stem Cell Therapy for Heart Failure Lowers Risk of Adverse Outcomes

Stem cell therapy can help heart failure patients decrease their risk of non-fatal myocardial infarction (MI) or stroke, according to new research presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2021. 

Heart failure is a condition when the heart is unable to adequately pump blood to meet the body’s need for oxygen and nutrients. In heart failure with reduced ejection fraction (HFrEF), the heart muscle enlarges and weakens, resulting in a decrease in pumping ability and fluid buildup in the body’s tissues. Inflammation plays a significant role in the progression of heart failure over time.

The researchers examined the effects of using stem cells injected into the heart to target inflammation and treat chronic heart failure. They hypothesized that a single injection of stem cells from a healthy adult donor in addition to guideline-directed medical therapy for heart failure would affect the number of times participants were hospitalized for heart failure and reduce heart attacks, strokes and/or death. 

The study tracked data from 537 patients with heart failure with reduced ejection fraction. 80% were men and the median age was 63 years. Patients were divided in 2 groups, 261 patients were injected with 150 million mesenchymal stem cells directly into the heart using a catheter and 276 patients received a scripted, or sham, procedure. 

Participants were discharged from the hospital the day after the procedure and followed for an average of 30 months. The study’s focus was to examine if the stem cell treatment affected the likelihood of participants returning to the hospital for treatment of worsening heart failure. Also, they tracked whether participants had a heart attack or stroke, or died. 

The researchers did nod see a decrease in hospitalizations due to the stem cell treatment, but they notice several other significant results, which include: 

  • Those who received stem cell therapy had a 65% reduction in non-fatal heart attacks and stroke throughout the period of the study;
  • Participants with high levels of inflammation (CRP levels of at least 2 mg/L) were 79% less likely to have non-fatal heart attack or stroke after being treated with stem cells; and,
  • Stem cell treatment reduced cardiac death by 80% in people with high levels of inflammation and less severe, class II HF.

The lead author Emerson C. Perin, MD said: “Cell therapy has the potential to change how we treat HF.” “This study addresses the inflammatory aspects of HF, which go mostly untreated, despite significant pharmaceutical and device therapy development. Our findings indicate stem cell therapy may be considered for use in addition to standard guideline therapies.”


American Heart Association Scientific Sessions 2021, LBS.05. Stem cell therapy for heart failure reduced major CV events and death, not hospitalization. Published: November 14, 2021. Retrieved from: 

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