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For one patient, stem cells show promise

In this week's Lancet, several Norwegian cardiologists linkurl:urge caution;http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140673607609921/fulltext before testing stem cell therapies in patients following heart attacks. Three of the clinical trials so far haven't shown any positive effects, and the one that did was questionable, they write. At least one patient in Michigan didn't like being subjected to one such experiment in 2003; he's linkurl:suing;www.the-scientist.com/article/display/

By | July 2, 2007

In this week's Lancet, several Norwegian cardiologists linkurl:urge caution;http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140673607609921/fulltext before testing stem cell therapies in patients following heart attacks. Three of the clinical trials so far haven't shown any positive effects, and the one that did was questionable, they write. At least one patient in Michigan didn't like being subjected to one such experiment in 2003; he's linkurl:suing;www.the-scientist.com/article/display/15446 his doctors. So what does the subject of a similar trial, still ongoing, think? For our October issue, I linkurl:profiled;http://www.the-scientist.com/2006/10/1/48/1/ Doug Bergman, the 54-year-old former truck mechanic who may have had a needle filled with his own linkurl:CD34+ cells;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/24104/ -- thought to be stem cell-like -- linkurl:jabbed into his heart;http://images.the-scientist.com/supplementary/flash/24908/ ten times as part of a clinical trial in Minneapolis. I say ''may have'' because that needle may have been filled with saline in the double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. I spoke to him last week about how he's doing. It took a while for him to see any effect, but he says he's feeling better. ''I do think it made some definite good improvements, not to say that they completely go away,'' Bergman says of his anginal episodes. Bergman had his six-month follow-up appointment in late February, and at the time he was still having the same number of anginal episodes as he was before the procedure. Then, ''about a month after that I noticed I wasn't getting them as often. That's good,'' he says with a laugh. ''A very good thing. I talked to Dr. [Tim] Henry last week and told him how I was feeling, and he thought that was very good.'' None of his other symptoms have worsened, Bergman says. Claudication of his legs still keeps him from getting around as much as he'd like, but he's enjoying the summer, and spending time with his grandson. He'll follow up again in Minneapolis in August for a one-year visit, and then follow up by phone for a year after that. ''I feel very, very good,'' he says. ''I'm glad I did it.'' Of course, Bergman still doesn't know whether he got saline, as a member of the control group, or his stem cells. ''I look forward to finding out in the future what I was given.''

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