Study Shows Promise in Treating Heart Disease Associated With Muscular Dystrophy

Study on mice shows stem cells may help to regenerate muscle damaged by the disease.

Doctors at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions announced a potential breakthrough Monday, asserting that stem cells used to treat heart attacks may also help kids with muscular dystrophy.

Stem cells are immature cells that may be used on disease areas to regrow tissue, and they’ve already been used to regrow tissue in hearts injured in a cardiac arrest. This study focused on a very unique use; inspired by a mother who wouldn’t give up.

Dusty Brandom, 22, who has muscular dystrophy, said he knows his weakened muscles are just part of the problem. Over time, as with all muscular dystrophy patients, the disease caused scarring in his heart and lungs.

Refusing to accept that, Brandom’s mom searched everywhere for an answer, and may have found one in a surprising place.

"I read an article called 'Repairing Broken Hearts' and in it, it talked about Dr. (Eduardo) Marband's treatment that he was using for adults with heart attacks," said Catherine Jayasuriya, Brandom’s mother.

Jayasuriya reached out to Dr. Marban of the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute and not only encouraged him to consider the idea but her organization, Coalition Duchenne, raised money to help fund a study on mice with muscular dystrophy.

Marban said even he was surprised.

"It turns out the results were spectacular, much better than we expected," he said. "The mouse hearts got dramatically better."

The next step is human studies that Brandom hopes will lead to expanded uses for the treatment in the future.

"Guys like me will be able to walk again," said Brandom, of the possibilities that have arisen from the study. "That’d be really good to maybe be able to do some things I can’t do anymore."

Dr. Bruce Hensel says the next step will take time but "If it works it may save many lives."

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