By | March 2, 2010 12:00 am

ORLANDO, February 26, 2010 — Tiny transplanted stem cells could provide powerful treatments that “mend the broken heart,” Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences Professor Dr. Dinender Singla told participants Wednesday at the College of Medicine’s first Luminary Series of 2010.

“Hearts break every day,” Dr. Singla told colleagues, health-care professionals and students at the Orlando Museum of Art, noting that 1.5 million Americans have heart attacks each year and about half die on the way to the hospital.

Heart attacks happen when blood vessels in the heart become blocked, leading to the death of heart cells and a hardening of the heart muscle. When that happens, the heart doesn’t pump, leading to heart failure. Dr. Singla’s research team is looking at ways to replace dead heart cells with stem cells. In mice models, stem cells improved heart function by creating new blood and heart cells, increasing the heart’s pumping ability and improving overall cardiac health. Stem cells, Dr. Singla said, have the potential to improve the quality of life for people with heart disease and ultimately to save lives.

Research into stem cell therapies is just in its “infancy, however, it’s progressing very rapidly,” Dr. Singla said, adding that “in my opinion, stem cells are the future of medicine.”

During his presentation, Dr. Singla introduced members of his lab to the audience, telling the group, “I am nothing without them.” He also answered questions, including one from his 11-year-old son, Reestish, who asked how scientists will apply to human patients the stem cell treatments that now appear to work on mice.

“We are working very hard” on that application, Dr. Singa told his son, adding that if he can discover how to apply stem cell therapies to people, “I will feel I have done something in my life.”

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