The Italian Almanac

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human heart

Italian Science - November 16

Italian and American researchers have made a stem-cell breakthrough that could have huge implications for the treatment of heart conditions. The joint team has succeeded in taking stem cells from human hearts, treating them in the laboratory and using them to repair damaged hearts in mice, an American Cardiology Congress was told on Monday.

"This is the first time that stem cells have been taken from the same organ they will repair," one of the researchers from Rome's La Sapienza University said. He said the risk of rejection was very low because the the tissue used to repair heart-attack damage came from the same organ as the recipient. The La Sapienza scientists, working with colleagues from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, obtained their stem cells by removing slivers of tissue from biopsies, the conference was told.

The mice hearts showed an improvement in muscle tone and capacity of contraction that was 30% greater than that obtained by conventional treatment. The scientists cautioned that these were only preliminary tests and there was "still a long way to go to develop treatments for humans." But they stressed that any such treatment would be "a major advance" on current stem-cell treatments for patients who have had heart attacks.