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Last Updated: Friday, 17 October, 2003, 19:54 GMT 20:54 UK
Stem cells may help heart repair
Heart monitor
More than 650,000 in the UK suffer from heart failure
Scientists are to investigate whether stem cells taken from bone marrow can be used to repair damaged hearts.

University of Oxford scientists, sponsored by the British Heart Foundation, will look at ways of repairing heart muscle following a cardiac arrest.

Heart muscle that is unable to repair itself may result in heart failure, a debilitating disease affecting more than 650,000 people in the UK.

A total of 41% of those with the condition die within one year.

But stem cells taken from bone marrow might be able to form new heart muscle and blood vessels, according to the team of scientists.

Best chance of repair

There are hopes the three-year study will mark a significant step forward towards enhancing stem cell therapies.

Stem cells are "master" cells that can turn into different types of tissue.

The team will first study the effect of transplanting bone marrow stem cells into rats.

The technique may later be tested on humans.

Almost 300,000 is being donated by The British Heart Foundation so researchers can investigate which types of stem cells provide the best chance of muscle repair.

Professor Kieran Clarke, heading the study, said: "It is essential that we understand the basic biology of stem cells and test these cells in functioning animal models so that they can be safely applied to the treatment of human disease."

Professor Sir Charles George, medical director of the British Heart Foundation, said: "We look forward to the results of the project at the University of Oxford as the outcomes could benefit a large number of people."

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