Researchers have found a combination of heart cells derived from human stem cells could help to recover from the damage caused by a heart attack.
In a study, published in the Nature Biotechnology journal, a team led by an Indian-origin researcher noted that by transplanting an area of damaged tissue with a combination of both heart muscle cells and supportive cells taken from the outer layer of the heart wall, they may be able to repair the damaged hearts.
The researchers from the University of Cambridge in collaboration with researchers from the University of Washington used supportive epicardial cells developed from human stem cells to help transplanted heart cells live longer.
They used 3D human heart tissue grown in the lab from human stem cells to test the cell combination, finding that the supportive epicardial cells helped heart muscle cells to grow and mature.
The study showed improvement in the heart muscle cell's ability to contract and relax.
In rats with damaged hearts, the combination restored lost heart muscle and blood vessel cells.
"There are hundreds of thousands of people in the UK living with heart failure -- many are in a race against time for a life-saving heart transplant. But with only around 200 heart transplants performed each year in the UK, it's essential that we start finding alternative treatments," said a leader of the study Sanjay Sinha, a British Heart Foundation (BHF)-funded researcher from the University of Cambridge.
Researchers hope that by harnessing the regenerative power of stem cells, they will be able to heal human hearts one day by using a patient's cells.
"When it comes to mending broken hearts, stem cells haven't yet really lived up to their early promise. We hope that this latest research represents the turning of the tide in the use of these remarkable cells," said Nilesh Samani, medical director at BHF.