How your belly fat might help your heart

A heart-healthy use for belly fat? Regenerative stem cells isolated from fat appears to improve cardiac functions after a heart attack.

Scientists have found a heart-healthy use for belly fat.

Dutch researchers isolated stem cells from fat liposuctioned out of heart attack survivors, infused the cells into their heart, and found that their heart functions improved.

The treatment reduced the amount of damaged heart tissue, increased blood flow in the heart, and improved the heart’s pumping ability, according to molecular cardiologist Eric Duckers from Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

Eleven men and three women – who had each suffered a severe heart attack – were recruited for the double-blind, placebo-controlled study called APOLLO, which comes from “a randomized clinical trial of adipose-derived stem cells in the treatment of patients with ST-elevation myocardial infarction.”

Between 200 and 250 cubic centimeters of fat were liposuctioned from the abdomen of each patient. From those fat cells, the researchers used a Celution 800 device (Cytori Tx) to isolate 20 million regenerative stem cells, which went right into the patient’s heart through a catheter.

Six months later, the 10 patients who received the stem cells showed an increase in the blood flow in the heart and in the amount of blood the heart can pump.

The amount of damaged heart muscle dropped from about 31% down to about 15%. In the four patients who received placebos, the heart muscle damage stayed about the same.

“The study suggests that these cells can be safely obtained and infused inside the hearts of patients following an acute heart attack,” lead author Duckers said. These findings were presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions in Chicago this past week.

However, because of the project’s small size, these improvements were not considered statistically significant. Duckers and his colleagues have initiated a phase II-III clinical trial they call ADVANCE, which will enroll up to 375 patients at 35 European medical centers. The researchers hope to improve infarct size – or area of tissue death caused by loss of blood supply – which helps predict survival.

Small clinical trials in the last few years have tested whether stem cells from bone marrow could help the heart recover after an attack. “This pilot study shows for the first time that stem cells from a patient's fat tissue may be similarly beneficial,” the British Heart Foundation medical director told BBC, “indicating a potential new and more convenient source of stem cells.”

An American Heart Association spokesman told AOL Health that he’s cautiously hopeful about the new research. “We know that adipose (fat) tissue has stem cells,” he said, “and fat tissue is easily accessible.”

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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