A Newport Beach nonprofit donated $150,000 toward stem cell research that could slow or reverse heart damage in patients, including those with a specific muscular dystrophy condition, the organization announced last week.

Coalition Duchenne gave the money to a Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute team developing a treatment that could help treat Duchenne muscular dystrophy patients who develop heart disease, according to a news release from the coalition.

Boys with Duchenne are born with damage to their hearts that worsens over time, according to Dr. Ron Victor, associate director of the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute.

"If we can use stem cells to slow or stop heart damage, it could help stall progression of the disease," he said in a prepared statement.

The institute's experimental treatment involves removing a raisin-size piece of heart muscle that is used to grow the stem cells.

Researchers have seen an average 50% reduction in muscle damage following a heart attack when those cells are injected back into the patient, according to the release.

"Each year, 20,000 boys are born with Duchenne," said Catherine Jayasuriya, who founded Coalition Duchenne in 2010 after her son was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy associated with the disease. "Many do not live into their 20s and we lose many to cardiac issues. We need to focus on changing the course of the disease. We hope that working with cardiac stem cells is one way we will eventually change that outcome."

— Jeremiah Dobruck

Twitter: @jeremiahdobruck