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Health Beat: Stem cells to the rescue: Repairing the hearts

Health Beat: Stem cells to the rescue: Repairing the hearts

PHILADELPHIA - Coronary artery disease is the most common cause of heart attacks and death in the world. Plaque builds up in the arteries, reducing blood flow to the heart.

Now, a new experimental treatment could help improve blood flow to the heart and even repair it after a heart attack, making those like Debbie Minch thankful for each day.

"Grace is what's carried me through this," Minch said.

Ten years ago, at just 49, the choir singer and her husband were told she would need a quadruple bypass.

"Now we are at the point where my heart is severely damaged and nothing is really helping," Minch said.

Doctors said a heart transplant was her only option, but she'll soon find out if she'll be accepted into a new trial that could use her own stem cells to help repair the once thought irreversible damage, "or even create new blood vessels within areas of the heart that have been damaged," said Dr. Jon George, interventional cardiologist, Temple University School of Medicine.

First, stem cells are taken from a patient's bone marrow. Then using a special catheter and 3D mapping tool, the cells are injected directly into the damaged tissue.

"We have results from animal data that show blood vessels regrow in the patients that actually get stem cell therapy," George said.

It's a possible answer to Minch's prayers.

Temple University Hospital is currently pre-screening patients for the trial. For more information, call 215-707-5340.

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