(02/18/14) - It's called a STEMI, and it is the most deadly form of heart
attack. The key to surviving one might come from your own body.
A STEMI happens when one of the main arteries in the heart completely blocks blood flow. Every minute counts for a patient who suffers one.
"Oh, I love this salad," says Branko Koscak, who is making healthier choices after suffering a massive heart attack.
Working 18 hours a day finally caught up with him, "just running all the, all day, pretty much day and night."
Cardiologist Gary Schaer says the damage done by Branko's nearly 100 percent blocked artery was life-threatening, "this whole area of the heart muscle has been severely injured by this heart attack."
Dr. Schaer is among several doctors testing a new technique that uses a patient's own stem cells, "this is the most exciting area of medicine that I've been involved in, in my 30 years or so of practice."
A week after Branko's heart attack, a catheter was placed into his previously blocked artery and stem cells from his bone marrow were infused.
"It goes all the way through this catheter and comes out to this tip and it's infused down to this artery," Schaer said.
He says that when the stem cells begin to repair the heart, "and perhaps reverse some of the damage that's already occurred."
Preliminary evidence shows it takes somewhere between three and six months for maximum benefit.
Branko says he is taking it day by day, "I consider myself fortunate I got a wake-up call."
The phase two "Preserve" trial enrolled in December. If results show the stem cell therapy is working the way it is hoped to, the treatment will more than likely move on to a larger phase three trial.
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