Two Greek doctors participated in a ground-breaking trial of heart regeneration using stem cells, a finding that could help millions of people with heart failure, says a Telegraph report.
Heart attack patients who were not expected to live more than two years underwent heart regeneration with stem cells and now they are fit and healthy.
Surgeon Professor Steve Westaby, of the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, carried out the operations with Greek specialists Kyriakos Anastasiadis and Polychronis Antonitsis of the General University Hospital of Thessaloniki.
According to the Telegraph report, the research shows that scarring of heart muscle associated with a heart attack can be reversed, a feat which doctors believed was impossible. This is because scarring of the heart stops the organ pumping blood effectively and can lead to further attacks and sudden death.
However, the team of scientists operated on 11 seriously ill patients and injected them with stem cells at the same time as bypass surgery. The patients had an astonishing recovery.
The operations were conducted between November 2012 and September 2013 and none of the patients were expected to live longer than 24 months. But after the stem cell therapy, all are still alive and are far more active than they were before the heart attack.
“These were patients with stage three heart failure who were expected to die within about two years,” said Prof Westaby.
The implanted stem cells were created by British regenerative medicine company Celixir, which was co-founded by Nobel laureate Prof Sir Martin Evans, the first scientist in the world to culture mice embryonic stem cells in a laboratory. Larger trials are planned at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London later this year.
“These were patients who were forced to sleep propped up in bed, who were always short of breath, who couldn’t put their shoes on because their feet ankles and feet were swollen.
“We took these cells and put them into patients and had the most astonishing results. Scarred heart muscle doesn’t really improve at all so to see that happening was remarkable,” he said.