Using stem cells to mend broken hearts

Professor Sian Harding

A partnership between Imperial College London, University of Nottingham, the University of Westminster, University of Glasgow and UKE Hamburg.

This £2.5m BHF Centre of Regenerative Medicine is working on ways to grow new, beating heart muscle to graft on to damaged hearts, helping them beat more strongly again.

Tissue engineering with stem cells

It’s an ambitious goal which involves cooperation between scientists at Imperial and three other UK universities.

This approach is called tissue engineering, and involves using stem cells to create new heart muscle. Tissue engineers have already made other body parts – such as skin and windpipes – from stem cells, and transplanted them successfully into human patients. But the heart is far more complex than the windpipe. It's a mix of different types of cell, all lined up perfectly in the right proportions and directions to beat together in a highly controlled way.

The Centre is headed by Imperial's Professor of Cardiac Pharmacology, Sian Harding (pictured above), who is a leading figure in the study of heart muscle cells in the failing heart.

Professor Harding and her colleagues are also helping to take a separate programme of work to the next stage – growing new heart muscle from dormant stem cells in the heart. This exciting science will be led by BHF Professor Michael Schneider, who discovered that the adult heart contains a very small population of apparently dormant stem cells that could be targeted with medicines and then used to help the heart to repair itself after a heart attack.

Help us fund research like this by donating to our Mending Broken Hearts Appeal.