Cure for heart failure moves ‘one giant step closer’ as scientists use stem cells to regrow muscle

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Researchers in the UK discovered a technique to repair heart damage once considered irreversible. Cambridge University scientists reached a milestone using stem cells.

The research team gave rats with damaged hearts a transplant of two types of stem cells extracted from different parts of a human heart and grown in a laboratory.

The scientists said their outstanding results illustrated that their novel approach could regenerate lost heart muscle and blood vessels. 

The latest data shows that 900,000 people in the UK have heart failure, along with 5.7million Americans. The condition happens when the heart has lost some of its capacity to pump blood round the body, usually because it has become too weak or stiff.

Heart attacks can lead to heart failure by starving part it of oxygen, causing damage to heart tissue and halting heart function. Heart tissue cannot regenerate itself so any damage caused by this situation is permanent.

A transplant is a last resort for people whose hearts fail completely.

“There are hundreds of thousands of people in the UK living with heart failure,” said Dr Sanjay Sinha, who led the study. “Many are in a race against time for a life-saving heart transplant.”

The researchers said they would have to do more work to find out why the epicardial cells were so good at helping the heart muscle to develop.

Stem cells are being used increasingly often in medical science because they have the extremely valuable quality of being able to regenerate damaged or dead tissues.