In a cardiac arrest, heart muscle cells die but existing treatments do not repair the damage to the muscle and have a limited effect on heart function.The team at the Cardiovascular Science at the National Heart and Lung Institute have discovered a way to rejuvenate hearts using a specialist versions of heart stem cells - known as “progenitor” cells - found in small quantities in human hearts.
Naturally there are only around 300 of these special cells for every million normal heart cells. The team thinks they are just there to help the heart recover from normal wear and tear.The research team has solved the problem, however, by isolating the special cells from human hearts and cloning them in the lab. Then, using a proprietary, non-toxic technique, they have multiplied them.
Professor Schneider was among the first to show that stem or “progenitor” cells exist in heart muscle, and then developed techniques to purify progenitor cells from a patient’s heart and grow them in the laboratory. Professor Schneider, who holds the British Heart Foundation’s Simon Marks Chair, said the team now wants to test human heart progenitor cells on pigs, which have similar anatomy to humans. Human trials could follow in two to three years.