UofL cardiologist leading multi-site trial In adult stem cells for heart failure

Published on September 18, 2017

The first researcher to successfully demonstrate the safety and potential efficacy of a type of adult cardiac stem cells in patients with heart failure is overseeing an expansion of his work at seven new sites in six states.

Roberto Bolli, M.D., director of the University of Louisville Institute of Molecular Cardiology and a cardiologist with UofL Physicians, is leading a research trial funded by NIH National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the CONCERT-HF Study. The study is a Phase II, randomized, placebo-controlled trial of the safety, feasibility and efficacy of two types of adult stem cells used alone and in combination in patients with heart failure.

Both types are known as “autologous” stem cells because they come from the same patient in whom they are returned. They are: autologous mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) and c-kit+ cardiac stem cells (CSCs). MSCs originate from the patients’ own bone marrow while CSCs are grown from the patients’ own heart tissue.

“I continue to believe that adult stem cells could be the greatest advancement in cardiovascular medicine in my lifetime,” Bolli said. “CONCERT-HF is very important because it will help determine whether c-kit cardiac stem cells are effective and whether combining two stem cell types is more effective than giving one cell type alone.”

Bolli and patient Cynthia Strawser, who has heart failure and is participating in the trial, appeared in a WLKY-TV story in mid-September on Bolli’s work. Strawser, who was in need of a heart transplant, said she is feeling much better since beginning the trial, though neither she nor Bolli knows yet whether she received the stem cells or a placebo.

Bolli, who also serves as scientific director of the Cardiovascular Innovation Institute at UofL, is a pioneer in research using adult stem cells for cardiac disease. In the landmark 2011 SCIPIO trial, he and his research team were the first to successfully show the safety and potential efficacy of autologous ckit+ stem cells taken via cardiac biopsy from patients who had suffered a previous heart attack.