Mister Essay

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When he was only 43, Peter Harrison had a severe heart attack that left him suffering from the symptoms of a damaged heart: shortness of breath, chest pain and increased risk of another heart attack. An otherwise healthy commercial real estate agent from Key Biscayne, Harrison was in and out of the hospital for 20 years treating his heart condition until last year when doctors at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine injected his heart with stem cells as part of a study. Three weeks later, he was hiking the steep hills of the U.S. Virgin Islands, keeping up with his wife. “There was no chest pain and I was not out of breath — it was quite a revelation,” he said. “I was hoping that the damaged part of my heart would come back to life, and the indication is that it has.” The study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association this week, found that stem cell injections into the heart muscle reduced scar tissue by one third, built up healthy heart tissue and remodeled the spherical shape of the damaged heart to look more like a football-shaped healthy heart. Dr. Joshua Hare, the director of the UM Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute and the lead author of the study, said the stem cells — cells that are not fully formed and have the potential to become different kinds of cells — internalize information their “milieu” to know what to become. “We think the cells respond to environmental cues to determine how they divide and differentiate,” he said. The stem cells used in this study were taken from bone marrow and have a “limited repertoire” of possibility, meaning they are more easily transformed into bone or muscle than blood or brain. Half of the 30 men enrolled in this small pilot study at UM and Johns Hopkins University received injections of their own stem cells, while the

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