SPECT imaging can evaluate stem cell therapy effectiveness in patients with coronary heart disease


Study by Seoul National University researchers released at Society of Nuclear Medicine's 52nd Annual Meeting June 1822 in Toronto

TORONTO, Canada--Researchers from Seoul National University confirmed that single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of stem cell therapy with ischemic or coronary heart disease. The group's findings from two scientific papers about stem cell therapy were released during the Society of Nuclear Medicine's 52nd Annual Meeting June 1822 in Toronto.

Using ECG-gated myocardial single SPECT, researchers determined that stem cell therapy improved the regional function of the damaged heart more than blood flow to the damaged heart muscle. "Our findings indicate that stem cells helped improve the damage caused by heart attack beyond the formation of new vessels into the damaged myocardium," said Dong Soo Lee, professor in the department of nuclear medicine at Seoul National University, South Korea.

Ischemic heart disease occurs when blood and oxygen flow to the heart muscle are restricted. Blood vessels are narrowed or blocked by deposits of cholesterol plaque on their walls. This condition could eventually lead to a portion of the heart being deprived of its blood supply, possibly resulting in a heart attack, the most common cause of death in several countries around the world. The use of stem cells for therapy is an exciting area of medical research, and researchers are testing its potential with heart disease. Stem cells--uncommitted cells with the potential to develop into a variety of cell types--can be obtained from bone marrow, where new cells continue to be generated in adult life. Past animal studies have shown that injecting stem cells from bone marrow into damaged hearts could repair and improve heart function.

"Due to its noninvasiveness and convenience, peripheral stem cell therapy will be widely used in patients with ischemic heart disease," said Lee. "Gated myocardial SPECT will help evaluate treatment effect and suggest the underlying mechanism whereby the damaged heart muscles improve after stem cell infusion," added the co-author of "Evaluation of Myocardial Segmental Perfusion and Function After Intracoronary Peripheral Stem Cell Infusion in Patients With Acute Myocardial Infarction Using Gated Myocardial SPECT" and "Assessment of Tissue Distribution of F-18 FDG Labeled Hematopoietic Stem Cell After Intracoronary Administration in Patients With Myocardial Infarction."

Myocardial SPECT is a well-established method for assessing myocardial blood flow in patients with ischemic heart disease. With SPECT, information can be obtained on global function, heart volume and regional blood flow and function. "Gated myocardial SPECT can compare function before and after a successful treatment," said Lee.

Korean researchers also labeled stem cells with F-18 FDG (fluorodeoxyglucose) and successfully assessed tissue distribution. "The use of PET to evaluate stem cell treatment of heart disease adds specificity and feedback to stem cell treatment," said Josef Machac, M.D., director of the clinical PET center and nuclear medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, N.Y., and a vice chair of SNM's Scientific Program Committee (Cardiovascular Track). "Rather than just infusing the stem cells, closing one's eyes and hoping for the best, the imaging of F-18 FDG-labeled stem cells provides valuable information about the location and number of cells successfully implanted. One can then link this with eventual improvement in function, investigated by the same group with gated myocardial SPECT," Machac explained.

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