Scientists have made significant advance in developing a stem cell patch to fix the damaged area of the heart after an attack.
Sian Harding of London's Imperial College said on Thursday her team has successfully matured heart cells for up to seven months and developed a biocompatible scaffold to form the basis of a patch.
The idea is to stitch or glue a patch of new tissue derived from embryonic stem cells over the damaged part of heart to make the muscle viable again.
During a heart attack, the heart muscle loses its blood supply and the oxygen-starved cells die, causing scarring.
The biomaterial developed for the patch is designed to have the same elasticity as heart muscle and can also be programmed to degrade safely from two weeks upwards.
By showing stem cell-derived heart cells can beat in a co-ordinated fashion for months on end, the Imperial team believed their patch should function smoothly alongside normal heart muscle.
Harding said initial human trials of the patch could be underway within five years -- after safety studies on animals and tests to see if the new cells are rejected.
(Agencies via Xinhua December 14, 2007)