Push on for Austin stem cell center

Effort would speed up research process

AUSTIN (KXAN) – At Austin Heart Hospital, research physicians are conducting a stem cell study on heart attack patients that is showing promising results.

It’s not just heart attack patients, either. Back in 2000, Dr. James Willerson of the Texas Heart Institute at the University of Texas Health Science Center led a group of researchers who got permission to conduct a study on heart failure patients in Brazil.

“Some 70 percent of whom would be dead three years later,” Willerson told a stem cell symposium in Austin this week, “and all of whom couldn’t walk from here to the wall without getting very short of breath, and most of whom could not put their head down flat to sleep because they can’t breathe.” The research team injected the patients’ own adult stem cells from their bone marrow directly into their hearts. “Within two months, the patients we treated had significantly better blood flow to their heart and better contraction of their heart,” Willerson said, ‘and some who couldn’t walk from here to this wall were jogging on the beach in Rio.”

“Almost every disease you can think of,” said Dr. Darwin Prockop from the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine at Scott & White in Temple. “Arthritis, intestinal diseases, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis.” Prockop, a pioneer in the stem cell field, was recruited to Texas from Tulane University, drawn by funding to establish the institute, funding that included money from the “Governor’s Emerging Technology Fund.”

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