Stem cell ‘pumping heart patch’ offers hope to heart attack patients

A revolutionary new ‘pumping heart patch’ made from adult stem cells could help treat thousands of patients after a heart attack.

Heart attacks occur when a clogged artery blocks blood flow to the heart and starves it of oxygen and nutrients. This damages the muscle and can lead to heart failure, which affects around 900,000 people in the UK.

But researchers at Imperial College London hope their pumping patch could be used to treat heart attack patients to help repair their hearts.

‘Revolutionary’

By taking a sample of skin cells from the patient, scientists have been able to incubate a living plaster, which pumps like the heart.

The plasters contain millions of adult stem cells – an ethical alternative to embryonic stem cells, which require the destruction of a human embryo. Once grafted onto the heart, they also release chemicals which help regenerate existing damaged heart cells.

Cardiologist Dr Richard Jabbour, one of the researchers, said: “What we’re trying to do with this patch is replace the heart muscle that is lost after a heart attack.

“This patch has the potential to change the way we treat heart failure and is a potentially revolutionary treatment option.”

Transformational

Dr Jabbour added he hoped that eventually heart patches will be added to the list of routine treatments offered by doctors to heart attack patients.

The British Heart Foundation’s Prof Metin Avkiran said: “Heart failure is a debilitating and life-changing condition with no cure, making everyday tasks incredibly difficult.

“If we can patch the heart up and help it heal, we could transform the outlook for these people.”

The British Cardiovascular Society conference was told that trials on rabbits have been successful and that human trials should start in the next two years.

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