Scientists identify stem cell injection that could mend broken hearts

18 May 2015        

Three hearts images with MRI

Researchers from our London Centre of Regenerative Medicine have identified what could be the most effective stem cells yet for repairing irreversible damage caused by a heart attack. 

In research published in Nature Communications, a team from Imperial College London, led by BHF Professor Michael Schneider and Dr Michela Noseda, has discovered a particular type of stem cell that could have the most potential yet for heart regenerative medicine. The study comes as the we celebrate four years of your generous donations to research into regenerative medicine through our Mending Broken Hearts Appeal, bringing us ever closer to a world without heart failure

The findings showed that 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 to mice who had not received the stem cell treatment. The researchers now hope to find a similar cell in human hearts to repair the damage caused by heart attacks.  

Why is a heart attack so serious?

During a heart attack, the heart is starved of oxygen and suffers damage that can never be repaired. Over time, this damage can lead to heart failure, which affects over half a million people in the UK.  

Heart failure is a debilitating condition that leaves sufferers unable to climb stairs, wash themselves or carry out simple tasks. In its severest form, heart failure is a terminal illness and the only cure is a heart transplant. 

What now?

Professor Jeremy Pearson, our Associate Medical Director said: “This research represents one of the many ways in which scientists funded by our Mending Broken Hearts Appeal are approaching the problem of heart regeneration - a crucial next step for this research will be to establish if the human heart has similar heart-repairing stem cells to those pinpointed by this method in mice."

BHF Professor Michael Schneider, who directed the research said: “Future treatments could be injections of stem cells, as in our current experiments, or use of the healing proteins that these cells make.”

Through our Mending Broken Hearts Appeal, we have already funded three Centres of Regenerative Medicine. But we need the continued support of the public to continue this research that is showing the potential to improve and save thousands of lives. 

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