Heart Repaired in Pakistan’s First Stem Cell Surgery
By Mukhtar Alam

Karachi : A surgeon at the Karachi Institute of Heart Diseases (KIHD) has succeeded in repairing a damaged human heart by transplanting stem cells.
Sources in the hospital, which was being run by the Karachi city government, said that the stem cell therapy done along with bypass, which was the first of its kind in the country, was aimed at making the weakened heart muscles regain its pumping power.
The condition of the patient, who belongs to Balochistan, is said to be stable. He was living without additional or machine supports in the hospital’s intensive care unit, said a source, adding that internationally such operation cost an amount equivalent to Rs1 million, but the patient in question did not have to pay money for the outstanding surgery and stem cell transplantation.
Heart attacks and congestive heart failure are among the most prominent health challenges in today’s world witnessing tremendous changes in the lifestyle of individuals. One can recognize easily that impairments of the heart and circulatory system represented a major cause of death and disability in Pakistan as well.
According to an expert, despite advances in surgical procedures, mechanical assistance devices, drug therapy, and organ transplantation (not so far undertaken in the country) more than half of patients with congestive heart failure die within five years of initial diagnosis.
KIHD surgeon Dr Asadullah Hussaini, who applied the stem cell biology technique on the patient, told Dawn on Friday that 65-year-old Attaullah had reported to the hospital for angiography and was diagnosed as a person with a poor functioning heart. The patient, who was preparing for bypass surgery, was proposed to have stem cell transplantation simultaneously, an approach successfully adopted in the case of patients with weakened heart in Germany. The patient agreed to the proposed repairing of the heart and was operated upon on Thursday.
The stem cell therapy/transplantation procedure done along with bypass at the KIHD for the first time took about six hours to complete.
Surgeon Hussaini said that the bone marrow harvested from iliac crest of the patient was purified by a clinician’s kit to concentrate stem cells, which were later injected into the damaged heart muscle at the time of the bypass operation. He observed that the therapy would improve the function of the damaged heart by 15 to 20 per cent and there were no added risks involved in the procedure.
Replying to a question, he said that there was no controversy to the use of replacement cells for dead or impaired cells globally and the first, second and third phase trials had been made long before. The stem cell treatment, which is successful globally, will reduce cardiac failure and the need for heart transplantation, he concluded.


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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