A ‘sticking plaster’ made from adult stem cells could be a significant step towards combatting heart failure, scientists say.
Researchers discovered that stem cells taken from a patient’s thigh and transplanted onto the heart led to improved heart function after one year.
Heart failure is thought to affect between 500,000 to 900,000 people in the UK. It occurs when the heart becomes too weak to efficiently pump blood around the body.
The authors of the study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, said the therapy was potentially a long-term solution to the problem.
They said that, “promising results in the safety and functional recovery warrant further clinical follow-up and larger studies”, which they hope will confirm the treatment’s potential.
Professor Metin Avkiran, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, hailed the ‘exciting’ breakthrough.
He said: “Heart failure is a cruel and debilitating illness affecting more than half a million people across the UK. Currently, heart failure is incurable, but stem cell-based treatments may offer new hope to people suffering from the disease.”
He echoed the call for further research, saying: “The study involved only a small number of patients. In order to establish the long-term safety and benefits of the exciting new treatment we would need larger studies.”
Heart failure often leaves sufferers struggling for breath and exhausted while carrying out simple everyday tasks, such as eating or getting dressed.
It can be caused by several issues including heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure, but can also be the result of an unhealthy lifestyle.
Earlier this month, it was revealed that a remarkable new technique allows adult stem cells to be used to treat burn victims.
Taking a sample of skin stem cells and spraying them onto a victim’s burn caused new layers of skin to form over the burn, potentially healing even severe burns within weeks.
And in January, scientists released findings showing that synthetic cardiac stem cells could be used to treat patients who had suffered a heart attack by repairing the heart muscle damage.