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Brigham and Women’s Hospital

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Biological Bypass

Researchers identify a coronary vascular progenitor cell capable of growing new coronary arteries.

Boston, MA, September 13, 2009 --( Most of the clinical displays of coronary artery disease can be treated by new formations of coronary arteries that replace the constricted or occluded coronary vessels, restoring blood flow to the heart. Unfortunately, this has been so far an impossible task. In this study, Dr. Piero Anversa MD, from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and colleagues, have demonstrated that the human heart contains a population of stem cells which has the unique property to form large vessels similar to those commonly affected by atherosclerosis, a disease which can lead to heart attack. These findings are published in the online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences during the week of August 17, 2009.

"We have defined this novel class of primitive cells and named them coronary vascular progenitor cells (CVPCs). These cells possess all the fundamental properties of stem cells and are distributed within niches located in the vessel wall of the entire human coronary circulation system," said Anversa, who is director of the Center for Regenerative Medicine and a physician in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative, and Pain Medicine Research Laboratories at BWH.

To establish the functional importance of CVPCs, a critical blockage was created in immunosuppressed dogs and human CVPCs were injected in proximity of the constricted artery. One month later, there was an increase in coronary blood flow in the affected myocardium resulting in functional improvement of the heart. Regenerated large, intermediate and small human coronary arteries were found, suggesting that the human heart contains a pool of CVPCs that can be implemented clinically to form a biological bypass in patients with chronic coronary artery disease and ischemic cardiomyopathy.

"This therapeutic strategy could dramatically change the goal of cell therapy for the ischemic heart; prevention of myocardial injury would become the goal of cell therapy rather than the partial restoration of established damage,” said Anversa.

About Brigham and Women's Hospital:-
Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) is a 777-bed nonprofit teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School and a founding member of Partners HealthCare, an integrated health care delivery network. In July of 2008, the hospital opened the Carl J. and Ruth Shapiro Cardiovascular Center, the most advanced center of its kind. BWH is committed to excellence in patient care with expertise in virtually every specialty of medicine and surgery. The BWH medical preeminence dates back to 1832, and today that rich history in clinical care is coupled with its national leadership in quality improvement and patient safety initiatives and its dedication to educating and training the next generation of health care professionals. Through investigation and discovery conducted at its Biomedical Research Institute (BRI), BWH is an international leader in basic, clinical and translational research on human diseases, involving more than 860 physician-investigators and renowned biomedical scientists and faculty supported by more than $416 M in funding. BWH is also home to major landmark epidemiologic population studies, including the Nurses' and Physicians' Health Studies and the Women's Health Initiative. For more information about BWH, please visit

Contact Information
Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Suzanne Benz
(617) 534-1604
75 Francis Street
Boston, MA 02115 USA

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