Feb. 13, 2012 -- A new stem cell treatment resurrects dead, scarred heart muscle damaged by a recent heart attack.
The finding, just in time for Valentine's Day, is the clearest evidence yet that literally broken hearts can heal. All that's needed is a little help from one's own heart stem cells.
"We have been trying as doctors for centuries to find a treatment that actually reverses heart injury," Eduardo Marban, MD, PhD, tells WebMD. "That is what we seem to have been able to achieve in this small number of patients. If so, this could change the nature of medicine. We could go to the root of disease and cure it instead of just work around it."
Marban, director of the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles, led the study. He invented the "cardiosphere" culture technique used to create the stem cells and founded the company developing the treatment.
"These findings suggest that this therapeutic approach is feasible and has the potential to provide a treatment strategy for cardiac regeneration after [heart attack]," write University of Hong Kong researchers Chung-Wah Siu and Hung-Fat Tse. Their editorial accompanies the Marban report in the Feb. 14 advance online issue of The Lancet.