A simple injection of stem cells alongside usual treatments in heart attack patients could help limit the damage and prevent heart failure, researchers claim.
Scientists have been given the go-ahead for the first European trial of a new treatment that uses stem cells to improve blood supply to reduce the harm to the heart after an attack.
Revascor, a treatment incorporating stem cells from fit, young adults, is injected into the heart within 12 hours of a heart attack alongside usual procedures which aim to open up the arteries and restore blood flow.
Early trials on sheep suggest the new method can improve blood flow to damaged tissue, limit scarring and improve heart function.
This could help cut the risk of heart failure, which occurs when the blood becomes less efficient at pumping blood around the body and is often prompted by damage sustained in heart attacks.
A 225 patient trial, which will be conducted in Britain and other European countries, will aim to establish if the treatment is effective in humans.
Professor Eric Duckers, the lead investigator from Erasmus University Hospital in The Netherlands, said: “We are excited to be pioneering a novel and minimally invasive clinical approach that has the potential to greatly improve the quality of life for patients suffering acute heart attacks.”
Professor Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, said: “This experimental trial takes another step towards knowing whether cell therapy will be able to help repair damaged hearts safely.
“However, we are still a long way from knowing whether this particular therapy will succeed or whether other ways to encourage damaged heart tissue to repair will be more successful.”