Fat discarded during cardiac surgery may hold the key to heart repair, suggests a new study from Canadian researcher Dr. Ganghong Tian.
Tian and his team, who presented their findings this week at the Frontiers in Cardiovascular Biology meeting in Barcelona, found that stem cells in discarded fat could be injected back into the patient to boost the heart’s functioning.
The special fat has potential to increase heart function, lower the severity of heart attacks and increase blood vessel regrowth.
It was previously thought that a separate procedure had to occur before cardiac surgery to get this particular fat, called subcutaneous fat or adipose tissue. But Tian wondered if mediastinal fat, which circles the heart, might also have the beneficial stem cells.
He and his team injected stem cells from the mediastinal fat issue of 24 patients into rats with congestive heart failure. The rats’ blood pumped better six weeks after the injections.
“This is the first evidence that stem cells collected from the mediastinal fat region are cardioprotective,” Tian said in a release.
“They displayed the same cardioprotective capacity we found in our previous research on stem cells from subcutaneous fat tissue. This raises the exciting possibility of using a patient’s own stem cells, isolated from waste tissue during cardiac surgery, to improve their heart function.”
Tian hopes to improve the efficiency of the technique with further research and to study whether stem cells can improve heart function for periods longer than six weeks.