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Stem cells may help repair heart

Published 18/05/2015

A newly identified stem cell injection could help repair what is currently irreversible damage caused by a heart attack
A newly identified stem cell injection could help repair what is currently irreversible damage caused by a heart attack

Scientists have identified a stem cell injection that could help repair what is currently irreversible damage caused by a heart attack.

Researchers from the British Heart Foundation's (BHF) London centre of regenerative medicine have identified what could be the most effective treatment yet for those who have suffered from coronary diseases.

In research published in Nature Communications today, a team from Imperial College London has discovered a particular type of stem cell that could have the most potential yet for heart regenerative medicine.

The study comes as the BHF celebrates four years of driving cutting-edge research into regenerative medicine through its Mending Broken Hearts Appeal.

The findings, led by BHF Professor Michael Schneider and Dr Michela Noseda, showed mice treated with these stem cells were able to recover and repair a significant proportion of their damaged heart muscle after 12 weeks, preventing heart failure, when compared with mice who had not received the treatment.

This study discovered that stem cells with heart repairing properties carry an identifying protein on their surface. The scientists were able to use this protein to find, purify and multiply enough of these stem cells so that they could be injected into damaged hearts.

The researchers now hope to find a similar cell in human hearts.

Prof Schneider said: "We have found stem cells in the heart that have a specific protein on their surface have the greatest potential to repair damaged hearts.

"When we injected stem cells with this protein into damaged hearts, we saw a significant level of heart repair. Now that we know which stem cells to use, we want to find their equivalent in human hearts for more efficient heart repair and regeneration after heart attacks.

"Future treatments could be injections of stem cells, as in our current experiments, or use of the healing proteins that these cells make."

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