By Tim Bonfield
The Cincinnati Enquirer
MIDDLETOWN - Charles Emrick, one the few people worldwide to get a muscle cell transplant to repair his failing heart, died Tuesday, 12 days after going through the procedure.
The 71-year-old Middletown resident was pronounced dead at Middletown Regional Hospital shortly after collapsing at a restaurant.
On June 5 at Christ Hospital in Cincinnati, Emrick became the first of up to 10 patients nationwide to get millions of leg muscle cells injected into their scarred hearts as part of a closely-watched experimental treatment for heart failure.
If successful, experts say the procedure could lead to longer life for people who suffer from heart failure.
Emrick got the experimental treatment as part of a second cardiac bypass operation. He needed the bypass because his heart had continued to weaken after damage from a heart attack suffered in 1981.
When leaving the hospital five days after treatment, he and Dorothy, his wife of 48 years, said they saw little risk in the attempt.
"I knew there was nothing else I could do or my doctors could do. So when (Dr. Donald Mitts) called, I said, 'Let's go for it.' If it didn't work, I'd just be back where I started and in a couple years I'd be laying flat on my back anyway."
It remains too early to say whether Emrick's death was directly connected to the experimental procedure and too early to decide whether to delay or halt the clinical trial, said Dr. Dean Kereiakes, medical director of the Lindner Center for Research and Education and principal investigator of the study.
The biggest potential side effect researchers feared from the experiment was an irregular heartbeat.
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