What is Heart Failure?
Heart failure, sometimes known as congestive heart failure, occurs when the heart muscle doesn’t pump blood as well as it should. When this happens, blood often backs up and fluid can build up in the lungs, causing shortness of breath.
Certain heart conditions, such as narrowed arteries in the heart (coronary artery disease) or high blood pressure, gradually leave the heart too weak or stiff to fill and pump blood properly.
Proper treatment can improve the signs and symptoms of heart failure and may help some people live longer. Lifestyle changes — such as losing weight, exercising, reducing salt (sodium) in your diet and managing stress can improve your quality of life. However, heart failure can be life-threatening. People with heart failure may have severe symptoms, and some may need a heart transplant or a ventricular assist device (VAD).
One way to prevent heart failure is to prevent and control conditions that can cause it, such as coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.
What are the Common Signs and Symptoms?
Heart failure can be chronic or it may start suddenly (acute). Some of the most common signs and symptoms are:
- Shortness of breath with activity or even while resting.
- Fatigue and weakness.
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat.
- Swelling of the legs, ankles and feet.
- Persistent cough or wheezing.
- Chest pain if the heart failure is caused by a heart attack.
What Causes Heart Failure?
It often develops after other conditions have damaged or weakened the heart. However, heart failure can also occur if the heart becomes too stiff. Over time the heart can no longer keep up with the typical demands placed on it to pump blood to the rest of the body.
It can be determined by measuring how much blood is pumped out with each beat (ejection fraction). In a healthy heart, the ejection fraction is 50% or higher. But heart failure can occur even with a normal ejection fraction. This happens if the heart muscle becomes stiff from conditions such as high blood pressure.
Some conditions that can damage or weaken the heart and cause heart failure are:
- Coronary artery disease and heart attack.
- High blood pressure.
- Faulty heart valves.
What Can Prevent Heart Failure?
The key to preventing heart failure is the reduction of the risk factors. Lifestyle changes that you can make to help prevent heart failure include:
- Eating a healthy diet.
- Exercising regularly.
- Not smoking.
- Reducing and managing stress.
- Controlling conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
Heart failure is a chronic disease that needs lifelong management. With treatment, signs and symptoms can improve. Sometimes the failure can be corrected by treating the underlying cause. For example, repairing a heart valve or controlling a fast heart rhythm may reverse heart failure. But in most cases the treatment is not curative and consists in medications and sometimes the use of devices, such as pacemakers.
Stem Cell Therapy
Stem cell therapy has been under evaluation as treatment for heart failure (HF) with reduced ejection fraction for more than a decade. Experimental studies report improvements in cardiac function and regeneration of damaged heart tissue through mechanisms, including transdifferentiation, cell fusion, and paracrine modulation.
Recent reviews suggest that stem cell therapy is safe and associated with moderate clinical benefits in survival, left ventricular function, and quality of life in patients with HF with reduced ejection fraction.
Clinical trials in patients with chronic ischemic or nonischemic diseases have assessed a range of cellular products and delivery routes. These include autologous or allogeneic bone marrow mononuclear cells and mesenchymal stem cells (MSC), administered by intramyocardial injections, percutaneous intracoronary infusion, and exceptionally peripheral intravenous infusion. After decades of basic and clinical research, overall benefit and the best cell source and route of administration remain unsettled.
Using stem cells derived from umbilical cord, researchers have improved the heart muscle and function of heart failure patients, paving the way for noninvasive therapies. The lead author of the study is Dr. Jorge Bartolucci, a professor at the Universidad de los Andes (UANDES) in Santiago, Chile, and Dr. Fernando Figueroa, a professor of medicine at UANDES, is the corresponding author.
Half of all heart failure patients are expected to die within the first 5 years after the diagnosis, and the 10 year survival rate is less than 30%. Worldwide, 26 million people are believed to live with the condition.
They conducted a trial in which they compared patients who were given an intravenous injection with stem cells from umbilical cord with patients who received a placebo. The research was composed of 30 patients, aged between 18 and 75, and divided into 2 groups: one that received the treatment, and the other received a placebo. Patients in both groups had stable heart failure, which was appropriately treated with the standard drugs. The umbilical cords were donated by healthy mothers who carried their pregnancy to term and had a cesarean delivery.
They found that in the stem cell group, the therapy improved the heart’s contractility in the year after the treatment. It also seemed to improve the daily functioning and quality of life of those treated. No adverse effects or inflammatory immune responses were noted during the treatment.
They were encouraged by their findings because they could pave the way to a noninvasive, promising new therapy. The results could have an impact on clinical outcomes, supporting further testing through large clinical trials. This type of stem cell therapy may be extremely beneficial to heart failure patients compared to other treatment options, which are often suboptimal in controlling heart failure and patients often have to progress to more invasive treatments, like heart transplantation.
Using Umbilical Cord Mesenchymal Stem Cells at Zignagenix
We have treated multiple patients with Heart Failure over the course of our clinical experience with excellent results in patients quality of life and symptom management. Some patients have even had an increase in ejection fraction months after the procedure. At our clinic we use this type of stem cells because they are easy to collect and process compared to other types of stem cells.
Stem cells have the ability to modulate the immune system, decrease inflammation and have regenerative capabilities. Also, umbilical cord-derived stem cells have an immunoprivileged status, meaning that they are not recognized as foreign by our immune system and do not cause rejection reactions.
Jorge Bartolucci, et al. Safety and Efficacy of the Intravenous Infusion of Umbilical Cord Mesenchymal Stem Cells in Patients With Heart Failure. Circulation Research. 2017; 121: 1192-1204.