Stem cell breakthrough could mean treatment for irreversible heart attack damage

Trials have not yet been conducted on humans Credit: Bodo Schackow/DPA

Stem cells could be used to help repair muscle damage caused by heart attacks which is irreversible under current medical science.

Researchers from the British Heart Foundation's (BHF) London centre of regenerative medicine have discovered that certain stem cells can be used to regenerate damaged heart muscles in mice.

The study, conducted by Imperial College London, discovered that stem cells with heart repairing properties carry an identifying protein on their surface.

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.

"When we injected stem cells with this protein into damaged hearts, we saw a significant level of heart repair," said Professor Michael Schneider, who co-lead the study with Dr Michela Noseda.

"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."

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