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WebMD's Top Health Stories of 2011

The 5 Most Significant Health Stories of the Year

Stem-Cell Breakthrough? continued...

Of the 14 patients analyzed so far, heart function improved dramatically. And in the eight patients seen one year after treatment, improvement appears to have continued. Moreover, the scars on patients hearts -- areas of dead tissue killed during their heart attacks -- are healing.

And patients aren't just doing better on measures of heart function. They report vastly improved quality of life and ability to perform daily tasks.

How big of a deal is this? WebMD asked an independent expert not involved in the study.

"This is a groundbreaking study of extreme importance," said Joshua Hare, MD, director of the University of Miami's Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute.

A word of caution: Not all promising clinical research results in a treatment. A case in point is the first human trial of stem cells to heal people paralyzed with spine injuries.

Despite a promising beginning, the company that makes the stem cells this year closed the clinical trial and stopped developing the treatment.

But undoubtedly, the research will continue elsewhere, perhaps leading to another story of the year.

Reviewed on November 28, 2011

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