Doc: Ethical stem cell method offers new hope for heart patients

Cardiovascular researcher Dr. Nabil Dib provides a before-and-after illustration during a discussion of stem cell therapy.       – Noah Kutz for Wrangler News

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Picture a world where seemingly incurable diseases can be healed by a single medical procedure which re-grows damaged tissue inside the body.

There is no need to imagine—this is the world we live in today.

Dr. Nabil Dib, who is director of cardiovascular research for Dignity Health and is recognized internationally for his studies involving the use of adult stem cells, says that heart failure in the U.S. is a growing issue that can be solved with a minimally invasive procedure.

“The problem with heart failure is that it is tremendous right now, because we have about 350,000 patients die per year from heart failure,” said Dib at a recent Dignity Health seminar on cardiovascular research.

“On average, 1 gram of the heart muscle has about 20 million cells, and in a large enough heart attack that leads to heart failure, we usually lose about 600 to 800 million cells.”

According to Dib, the reason so many people die every year from heart failure is because doctors go about treating their patients in the wrong way.

In many cases, heart attack victims will alleviate their pain through the use of prescription drugs and heart medication.

“They do help the heart and delay the progress toward heart failure and toward symptoms of heart failure…,” says Dib. “However, it’s not a curative therapy.” In his research, Dib found that the way to truly cure and rejuvenate a heart after one suffers a heart attack is by replacing the cells that were lost.

But how can one re-grow cells inside a heart? The answer: stem cell therapy.

In short, stem cells are specialized components that have the ability to become almost any type of tissue in the body. Therefore, when a heart attack victim receives a transplant of stem cells directly into the heart, the heart regenerates, bringing it back to almost the same strength prior to the attack.

Despite this incredible breakthrough in medical technology, it does not come without controversy.

Dib and his team of medical professionals strictly use adult non-embryonic stem cells, pulling these cells from various parts of the body.

Other doctors may use embryonic stem cells, which are extracted from human embryos in a lab. Embryonic stem cells, according to many researchers, are capable of being used for more procedures than adult stem cells. However, this involves the destruction of the human embryo.

Like many medical breakthroughs, the question of morality comes into play.

Is the destruction of human embryos for the purpose of saving lives ethical? Dib’s adult-stem-cell focus avoids that quandary and achieves a life-saving purpose.

For more information on Dr. Dib and his research visit dignityhealth.org/ourdoctors.

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