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Natural stem cells' self-repairing offers hope for heart failure treatment

Published on 16/08/2013

The heart hosts a group of stem cells that has natural regenerative qualities which could help introduce innovative heart failure treatments, says research from the UK.

Heart disease is one of the world's biggest killers

Leading scientists from King’s College London have identified a group of stem cells responsible for the regrowth and repair of muscle tissue damaged in the heart following a heart attack. If these cells are removed then the heart is unable to regenerate and heal itself following damage.

The research, which focused on the hearts of rodents and led by Dr Georgina Ellison and Professor Bernado Nadal-Ginard, was published in the journal Cell. It discovered that when the cardiac stem cells were replaced following the initial removal, the heart and repairs itself to a fully-functioning organ beating at a normal rate.

The procedure, which sees the cells removed then re-injected into the body naturally navigate themselves to the heart and successfully regenerate the hearts muscle damage in the aftermath of heart failure. This homing quality is crucial to the process as the cells are able to navigate directly to the heart in order to begin the vital regeneration.

The study was funded by the European Commission Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) and set out to establish the process of cardiac stem cells by investigating their role in rodents.

According to the British Heart Foundation, heart failure affects more than 750,000 people in the UK, causing breathlessness and hypertension.

Treatments currently available for coronary heart disease and cardiac arrests include modern medicine and sometimes surgery; both are useful in delaying or preventing heart failure. However, once heart failure develops in the body the only way to treat it successfully is with a heart transplant.

This latest research could prove a breakthrough in less invasive and risky treatments and could increase the likelihood of preventing the onset of heart failure.

Authors Dr Ellison and Prof Nadal-Ginard said: “In a healthy heart the quantity of cardiac stem cells is sufficient to repair muscle tissue in the heart.

“However, in damaged hearts many of these cells cannot multiply or produce new muscle tissue. In these cases it could be possible to replace the damaged cardiac stem cells or add new ones by growing them in the laboratory and administering them intravenously.”

© ActiveQuote Ltd. 2013

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