Pioneering Stem Cell Procedure Used in Heart Surgery

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Amit N. Patel, one of the leading cardiothoracic surgeons in the world made news recently for performing a pioneering procedure that he developed. Called retrograde gene therapy, this is a minimally invasive procedure that delivers stem cells to the heart. In the heart, these stem cells are capable of repairing artery damage as well as muscle damage in the least invasive manner and without causing any other complications.

According to Amit Patel, the potential of this retrograde gene therapy is tremendous as it essentially means undergoing a heart procedure that can rejuvenate or regenerate the heart muscle. What’s more it can be done as an outpatient procedure.

Katie and a friend in the hospital in Tanzania During the procedure, a catheter is first inserted straight into the cardiac vein. Once this is done, a small balloon is inflated so as to stop the blood supply from the heart. This then allows the surgeon to administer a dose of pure DNA directly to the heart. The DNA which is used is pure human DNA called SDF-1 (stromal cell-derived factor 1). It simply helps the body of the patient to produce stem cells and send the body’s own cells into the damaged area to repair it. According to the surgeon, the DNA carries out a function which is similar to that of a lighthouse. Just as a lighthouse shines a light that guides ships to the correct spot, this DNA acts like the guiding light which directs the body’s stem cells to the damaged areas. These stem cells, which are usually circulating around the heart, now get attracted into the heart and help to repair the damage inside.

Another great thing about this procedure is that it does not make use of any virus. This makes the procedure a lot less risky.

Amit N Patel, an Indian American physician, works at the University of Utah School of Medicine as an Associate Professor in the Cardiothoracic Surgery Division and he is also currently working at the University of Utah as the Director, Clinical Regenerative Medicine and Tissue Engineering. He is well known as a clinician, educator, researcher and a number of other areas of expertise. He is a versatile surgeon, with experience ranging from valve replacement and repair, aortic surgery and stent grafts, to coronary heart surgery, lung surgery and oesophageal surgery. He is also well known for his work related to thoracic oncology which has included hyperthermic chemotherapy and lung resections that are minimally invasive.

As for Amit’s current work, he is now looking for a cure for Type 2 Diabetes while working on developing his stem cell research for rapid healing of burns. He is also focusing on training surgeons in retrograde gene therapy and conducting trials. 

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