London: Belly fat might have a good use after all - at least, as an aid to heart attack treatment, say scientists.
A new study by the Erasmus University Medical Centre in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, has found that stem cells from waistline fat tissue could be used as a treatment for heart attacks, the `Daily Mail` reported.
In their study, the scientists injected stem cells derived from waistline fat tissue into the hearts of coronary patients and found that the cells reduced levels of damage, increased blood flow and improved the organs` pumping ability.
Eleven men and three women who had suffered recent heart attacks took part in the pioneering pilot study, given the name Apollo. Ten patients were treated with stem cells while four received a dummy `placebo` infusion.
Liposuction -- a cosmetic procedure commonly used to reduce people`s waistlines -- was used to remove up to 250 cubic centimetres of fat from the patients` bellies.
From each sample, the scientists isolated and extracted 20 million adult stem cells -- regenerative cells with the potential to become more than one kind of tissue. It took 10 minutes to infuse stem cells into a patient`s heart.
Six months later members of the treated group showed a 3.5 percent improvement in heart perfusion, which is heart`s ability to receive oxygenated blood. Compared with the placebo patients, they also experienced a 5.7 per cent increase in the amount of blood pumped out by heart`s left ventricle chamber.
On average, the amount of damaged heart muscle in the treated patients was halved from 31.6 per cent to 15.4 per cent. In the non-treated group, levels of heart damage remained the same.
The stem cells did not interfere with blood flow and were not associated with any potentially dangerous changes in heart rhythm, the study found.
Lead researcher Dr Eric Duckers was quoted by the British newspaper as saying, "The study suggests that these cells can be safely obtained and infused inside the hearts of patients following acute heart attack."
The findings were presented at the American Heart Association`s Scientific Sessions meeting in Chicago.
The scientists have now started work on a bigger follow-up trial, called Advance, that will recruit up to 375 patients from 35 European centres. It will focus on heart attack patients with a left ventricle ejection fraction of less than 45 per cent.
Forty per cent of patients will receive 20 million stem cells while another 40 per cent will get a larger dose of 30 million cells. The remaining 20 per cent will make up the placebo group, say the scientists.
The condition of the patients` hearts will be checked after six months.