Heart Disease (Cardiovascular diseases)

Heart, or cardiovascular, disease includes a number of conditions affecting the structures or function of the heart, including:

  • Heart attacks and other coronary artery disease
  • Abnormal heart rhythms or arrhythmias
  • Heart failure
  • Heart valve disease
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Heart muscle disease (cardiomyopathy)
  • Pericardial disease
  • Aorta disease and Marfan syndrome
  • Vascular disease (blood vessel disease)

  • Many traumatic cardiovascular conditions, like a heart attack, damage portions of the heart, reducing its capacity to circulate blood throughout the body. Strokes can cause partial paralysis and impair brain functions. As a result, heart attack and stroke survivors face a diminished quality of life and long-term health problems. Other cardiovascular diseases also create serious short and long term problems for their victims.

    Although great progress has been made in developing surgical and drug treatments for many cardiovascular conditions, heart disease remains the number one cause of disease and death in our country. Recent research indicates that stem cells could play an important role in repairing the cell and tissue damage caused certain types of heart disease, and could someday lead to new breakthrough cures.

    Human and Social Costs

    About 61 million Americans (almost one-fourth of the population) have some form of cardiovascular disease.

    Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., accounting for nearly one out of four deaths in our country. In fact, about 950,000 Americans die of some type of cardiovascular disease each year. That amounts to one death every 33 seconds.

    This year about 1.2 million Americans will have a first or recurrent coronary attack. About 502,000 of these people will die – 340,000 of them in an emergency room or before they reach a hospital.

    Although heart disease and stroke are often thought to affect men and older people primarily, it is also a major killer of women and people in the prime of life. Looking at specific age groups, cardiovascular disease is the number one killer for ages 65 and older, number two for ages 0-14 and 25-64, and number four for ages 15-24.

    Coronary heart disease is a leading cause of premature, permanent disability among working adults. Stroke alone accounts for the disability of more than 1 million Americans. And, almost 6 million hospitalizations each year are due to cardiovascular disease.

    The economic costs of heart disease are staggering and are steadily increasing. In 2003, the cost of heart disease and stroke was estimated to be $351 billion, including $209 billion for health care expenditures and $142 billion for lost productivity from death and disability.

    The Potential for Stem Cell Cures and Therapies

    Medical researchers and groups like the American Heart Association believe that stem cell research offers great promise for treating various cardiovascular diseases. For example, studies indicate that stem cells can be used to help generate new, healthy heart tissue, valves and other vital tissues and structures.
    Recent human studies indicate that injecting a person’s own stem cells directly into heart muscle appears to be a safe and useful in treating end-stage heart failure. In other research, a drug that stimulates bone marrow to produce stem cells has also been used to help regenerate damaged heart muscle. And, at an American Heart Association meeting last year, a scientist presented evidence indicating that human heart muscle cells – derived from human pluripotent stem cells – had been successfully transplanted into the hearts of healthy adult rats, and that the cells had begun to divide and form a mechanically meaningful heart architecture. These experiments could lead the application of a similar cell replacement therapy for humans.

    Researchers are also investigating whether implanting nerve stem cells in the region of the brain damaged by stroke could help restore brain function. In a recent study in the U.K. involving 12 stroke patients, 50% of the patients showed significant improvement 24 weeks after the stem cells were implanted.

    These exciting examples of stem cell research indicate why the American Heart Association and other heart disease experts and advocates strongly endorse the goal of increasing funding for all types of stem cell research.

    The potential that stem cell research offers to help people suffering from heart disease is just one reason why many California medical experts and organizations, including over 20 Nobel Prize winning scientists, the California Medical Association, and American Nurses Association of California have endorsed the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative.


    American Heart Association
    - http://www.americanheart.org

    National Institutes of Health: Stem Cell Information
    - http://stemcells.nih.gov/info/basics/

    "Stem cells improve heart function of seriously ill heart failure patients." American Heart Association Journal - http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=3011068

    "Bone marrow stem cells build new circulation to lungs."   American Heart Association Journal
    - http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=3016884

    "Stem Cell transplants offer hope of brain repair following stroke." American Heart Association Journal - http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=2817

    "Stem cells could repair hearts." BBC News
    - http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/3658927.stm

    "Stem cells 'reverse heart attack damage'."   BBC News
    - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/3136425.stm

    "Stem Cell Therapy For Heart Patients."   National Public Radio - http://www.npr.org/features/feature.php?wfId=1863904

    "Zebrafish's Powerful Heart Gene Could Lead to Transplant Therapy."   University of California, San Francisco
    - http://www.ucsf.edu/pressrel/1999/12/120801.html

    "Animal Study Find Embryonic Stem Cells Can Repair Heart Muscle."   Harvard Medical School. - http://home.caregroup.org/newsnow/pr_out.asp?pr_id=269

    "Study reports progress using stem cells to generate heart valve tissue."   HeartCenterOnline.com - http://www.heartcenteronline.com/myheartdr/home/research-detail.cfm?reutersid=3439&name=moreover

    "Bone Marrow Stem Cell Trial Approved for Heart Patients." Genome Network News
    - http://www.genomenewsnetwork.org/articles/2004/04/16/stem_cell_trial.php

    Publications Demonstrating Proof-of-Concept for Stem Cell Treatments for Heart Disease

    - Xu C. Carpenter MK. Characterization and enrichment of cardiomyocytes derived from human embryonic stem cells. Circulation Research (2002) 91: 501-508

    - Min JY. Xiao YF. Long-term improvement of cardiac function in rats after infarction by transplantation of embryonic stem cells. Journal Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery (2003) 125: 361-369

    - Hodgson DM. Stable benefit of embryonic stem cell therapy in myocardial infarction. Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol (2004) 287: H471-H479


    Paid for by YES on 71: Coalition for Stem Cell Research and Cures, #1260661
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