"It would be relatively easy to have a catheter in the ventricle, and inject stem cells in the region which is damaged and try to repair the tissue," he says. "A patient with coronary artery disease could have his stem cells stored in the hospital, and they could use them at the time they are needed."
Anversa has received some resistance because certain groups of researchers reported that they could not duplicate his findings, an important part of the scientific process, for some earlier work in which he injected stem cells from bone marrow into mice with damaged hearts. An editorial in the journal Nature urged caution in the face of these discrepancies, and stated that "those working in the field need to adopt more robust experimental approaches."
But Anversa stands by his work, and says he has already duplicated those findings on his own, and will submit the results soon. "The issue is still open," he says, "and we strongly stand for our data. The [negative] results are the result of artifacts or incompetence by the other researchers."
|image: ABC News|
That issue aside, human trials with bone marrow stem cells are underway, with some early signs of success. Similar human trials with heart stem cells will start as well. Meanwhile Anversa will receive a lifetime Research Achievement Award from the American Heart Association in November, at which time he says he'll release the results of several more studies that further his cause. He and Bolli think that, if they're right, stem cell therapy for heart disease could be available in three to five years.
Anversa's major papers appeared in Nature, April 2001; Cell, Sept 19, 2003; and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Sept 2, 2003; all of them were funded by the National Institutes of Health.