Stem cells repairing hearts - FOX 35 News Orlando

Stem cells repairing hearts

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ORLANDO, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35 ORLANDO) -

Three years ago Dahnsham Ramroop got a wake up call he never expected.

"[It was] just a regular Saturday afternoon, Saturday night, sitting there watching the Colts game," Ramroop recalled. "I started having chest pains."

The 33-year-old father-of-two was having a heart attack.

"It was very surprising," Ramroop says. "I knew I worked in a stressful job. I know I had a lot of stress, but at that age, that seemed pretty young."

Ramroop thought he had recovered, but two months ago he suffered two more heart attacks just days apart.

Vijaykumar S. Kasi, M.D., Ph.D., an interventional cardiologist at Orlando Regional Medical Center, was able to unclog the artery that caused Ramroop's heart attack -- which was 100 percent blocked -- but by then, the damage was already done.

"When the blood supply to a heart is blocked, the whole area of the myocardium does not get enough oxygen and enough nutrition and within a small period of time, the portion of the heart starts to die," Dr. Kasi explains.

There's currently no way to reverse heart damage. The only option is taking medication to prevent it from getting worse. That's why Ramroop opted to enroll in a clinical trial that's testing whether stem cells taken from his body can regenerate new heart cells.

"The overall goal is to restore function and we see that with the administration of stem cells, the function in that area does recover," Dr. Kasi says.

Dr. Kasi removed bone marrow from Ramroop pelvic bone and sent it to a lab where they took out his stem cells. Those cells were then injected back into Ramroop's heart through a catheter.

"Right now these treatments are not perfect, but we will one day hope to get there and giving our patients another chance at leading an active lifestyle," Dr. Kasi says.

Ramroop is hopeful the power to heal is within his own body.

"I really shouldn't have lived so some other force out there is keeping me alive so yeah, I do feel really extremely lucky," Ramroop says.

And with a new lease on life, he's making every moment count.

"People should just cherish what they have and live every day to the fullest because tomorrow, you may not be around," Ramroop says.

The clinical trial, sponsored by NeoStem, is taking place at 34 sites across the nation and will involve 160 patients. Since it's a double blind study, both Dr. Kasi and Ramroop don't know if don received the stem cells or placebo, and they won't know for another few years until the trial is over.

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