British scientists are to try out a new way to repair damage caused by heart attacks. By injecting patients’ damaged hearts with stem cells from their own bone marrow scientists hope to regenerate tissue.

Dr. Raimondo Ascione of the University of Bristol will lead the trial on 60 people who have recently had large heart attacks. During coronary bypass operations Dr Ascione will inject the patients with stem cells that may transform into the types of heart cells that repair damaged tissue.

Heart attacks are caused when heart muscle loses its blood supply, often because the arteries get furred up with fatty material. Cells in the oxygen-starved part die, scar and reduce the heart’s ability to pump blood.

The experiment will use a type of stem cell that forms about 1% of the bone marrow. “This approach ensures no risk of rejection or infection,” said Dr Ascione.

Before the operation and six months later, scientists will carry out MRI scans of the patients’ hearts.

Dr Ascione said that if the trial was successful it could be extended to every patient with heart disease.

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