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Stem cell hope for heart attack victims

30th July 2007

Scientists have made a breakthrough in their study of ways in which stem cells might be used to repair the damage caused by heart attacks.

Researchers from the University of Nottingham are working on the process that turns a stem cell into a cardiomyocyte, which is the beating cell that constitutes the heart.

They hope to generate more detailed information on the electrical activity of stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes.

In the longer term, cardiomyocytes could be used to heal the harm caused by a heart attack.

Dr Chris Denning, of the University’s Wolfson Centre for stem cells, tissue engineering and modelling, said: "This research will enable rapid development of stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes as a tool for understanding the heart and its diseases."

However, he warned that it would be years before scientists could consider using stem cells to treat heart attack patients.

"We don't yet know how to deliver the cells to a patient's heart and prevent them being washed away so that they actually stay in the heart and both survive and function," he said.

Dr Denning added that using stem cells would reduce the need for animal tests.

Around 660,000 people suffer heart attacks in Britain every year.