Research at Texas Heart Institute at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital Reveals More on How Cell Therapy Works to Repair Damage

HOUSTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Physician scientists at the Texas Heart Institute at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital (THI at St. Luke’s) are publishing research this week that reveals new insights into how a particular set of human adult stem cells helps repair damaged hearts following a heart attack in laboratory mice.

Researchers expect to use the findings to improve the design of new clinical trials to determine better ways to provide cell therapy for human patients with heart diseases.

Researchers at THI at St. Luke’s already have found that adult stem cells derived from a patient’s own bone marrow can be transplanted into a damaged heart, where they can lead to the development of new heart muscle and blood vessels. However, the precise process by which the cells affect these repairs remains elusive.

A team, led by Dr. Edward T. H. Yeh, the Janice and Robert McNair Foundation Scholar at THI, has now found that a certain set of human cells, known as CD34+, when injected into the hearts of mice damaged by heart attacks helps improve heart functions by stimulating the formation of new blood vessels and/or by providing beneficial chemicals within the heart, not by forming new heart muscles. The study also found that these beneficial cells can survive in the hearts of the mice for up to a year.

“This is one more critical piece of knowledge we can put to use in a way that will improve our patients’ lives,” said Dr. Yeh, who is also chair of the Cardiology Department at The University of Texas-M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

“We are excited by this new practical knowledge that we believe can be translated into new a better methods of treatment and provide new hope,” added Dr. James T. Willerson, President and Medical Director of THI at St. Luke’s, who also participated in the study and is a pioneer in the groundbreaking use of adult stem cell therapy in heart patients.

The findings of Dr. Yeh’s team are being published online this month in Circulation Research, the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Dr. Yeh collaborated in this research at THI at St. Luke’s with Dr. Jinxiong Wang, who was supported by a research fellowship from the Canadian Health Research Institute. Other collaborators include Dr. Juri Gelovani, Chairman of the Department of Experimental Diagnostic Imaging and Dr. Elizabeth J. Shpall, Professor in the Department of Stem Cell Transplantation and Cellular Therapeutics, and members of the Department of Imaging Physics at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. This research is also supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health awarded to both Drs. Yeh and Gelovani.

About St. Luke’s Episcopal Health System

St. Luke’s Episcopal Health System ( includes St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital in the Texas Medical Center, founded in 1954 by the Episcopal Diocese of Texas; St. Luke’s The Woodlands Hospital; St. Luke’s Sugar Land Hospital; St. Luke’s Lakeside Hospital; and St. Luke’s Episcopal Health Charities, a charity devoted to assessing and enhancing community health, especially among the underserved. St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital is home to the Texas Heart® Institute, which was founded in 1962 by Denton A. Cooley, MD, and is consistently ranked among the top 10 cardiology and heart surgery centers in the country by U.S.News & World Report. Affiliated with several nursing schools and three medical schools, St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital was the first hospital in Texas named a Magnet hospital for nursing excellence, and has been honored four times with the Distinguished Hospital Award for Clinical Excellence™ by HealthGrades, a leading independent company that measures healthcare quality in hospitals. The Health System has been recognized by FORTUNE as among the “100 Best Companies to Work For” and by the Houston Business Journal as a top employer in Houston. St. Luke’s Episcopal Health System also was honored as one of Modern Healthcare magazine’s “100 Best Places to Work.”

About the Texas Heart® Institute

The Texas Heart Institute (, founded by world-renowned cardiovascular surgeon Dr. Denton A. Cooley in 1962, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing the devastating toll of cardiovascular disease through innovative and progressive programs in research, education and improved patient care. Together with its clinical partner, St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital, it has been ranked among the top 10 cardiovascular centers in the United States by U.S. News & World Report’s annual guide to “America’s Best Hospitals” for the past 19 years. The Texas Heart Institute is also affiliated with the University of Texas (UT) System, which promotes collaboration in cardiovascular research and education among UT and THI faculty at the Texas Heart Institute and other UT components.


Texas Heart Institute
Frank Michel, 713-218-2210
[email protected]

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