UPMC and Baxter Healthcare Corp. are currently partnered in a regenerative medicine clinical trial to study whether a patient’s own stem cells can be used to treat severe coronary artery disease. The McGowan Institute faculty member Dr. Joon Sup Lee heads the CD34+ stem cell trial being conducted at the UPMC-Presbyterian Hospital.
There are 29 patients participating in the study. One participant, Hugh Rawson of Brownsville, PA, has a history of 4 heart attacks, 24 hospitalizations, 34 heart catheterizations, about 25 stents, and 2 triple bypass surgeries. All of this occurred from 2001-2005. Since his discharge from the hospital in 2005, Rawson has been treated for a variety of ailments, including debilitating and persistent chest pain, but no further heart attacks.
Most people might want to get as far away from doctors and hospitals after all of this? Not Mr. Rawson. He then volunteered for the CD34+ stem cell trial instead.
“Hugh is at one end of the spectrum. He’s certainly had more procedures than our average person in a study like this,” said Dr. Lee. “This study is looking at finding a way to improve the quality of life for these patients by growing new arteries to the heart.”
Stem cells were collected from Rawson’s white blood cells, concentrated and, if he is not getting a placebo, reinserted directly into the areas of his heart that had reduced blood flow by using a heart catheterization technique.
Lee said there shouldn’t be any adverse affects to the participants in the study. “There’s no foreign material that’s being injected back in the patient, so there’s no chance of rejection,” Lee said.
Human trials of medical treatments such as this one are vital to the development of effective therapies. “Our field is seemingly filled with therapies that appear effective in animals, but are ineffective in humans,” Lee said. “Without people like Hugh, we aren’t going to be able to develop new therapies. In animal studies, we make sure the animals have no other medical problems. Our patients aren’t like that. Many of them have diabetes or high blood pressure. The type of thing that he has volunteered for is essential in moving the field forward.”
Illustration: McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
Herald Standard (09/23/07)
UPMC Press Release (10/09/06)