Angina (angina pectoris) is caused when plaque forms in the blood vessels and restricts or reduces the blood flow to the heart. It’s characterized by symptoms which are similar to those of a heart attack – chest pain (pressure, tightness), excessive sweating, unnatural fatigue, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, nausea, anxiety and dizziness. A symptom of heart disease, angina can become chronic and non-responsive to current conventional treatment options such as avoidance of activities (such as exercise or stressful situations) or medications designed to improve blood flow and reduce the blockage. Angina which has progressed to a level where conventional treatment is no longer effective is referred to as refractory angina. Debilitating in nature, refractory angina limits the day-to-day activities of the person affected and has an extremely negative impact on their quality of life. Since refractory angina is non-responsive to conventional treatment options, there has been little hope for significant improvement for those with this chronic illness.
Transplants are not exactly new news in the medical field. Since the first attempts at kidney transplants in the 1950s, the science behind transplants has evolved and become more complex and refined. Cornea, bone marrow, kidney, lung and even heart transplants (just to name a few) are now an almost commonplace and seemingly routine part of treatment options. The field of cell transplantation is also expanding into new areas. According to the results of a study recently released in Cell Transplantation (18:12), new hope may soon be on the horizon for not only sufferers of refractory angina, but other heart diseases as well.
Brazilian researchers found that persons suffering from refractory angina improved when they received transplanted the cells from bone marrow mononuclear cells (BMMCs). The study was small and consisted of eight patients, all of whom had already undergone some type of revascularization procedure (surgery such as coronary artery bypass graft – CABG or percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty – PTCA).