Page last updated at 08:34 GMT, Friday, 25 September 2009 09:34 UK

Heart surgeon does pioneering op

Prof Stephen Westaby
Prof Stephen Westaby says he wants to bring the procedure to the NHS

An Oxford heart surgeon has carried out a procedure using an artificial heart and stem cells that he thinks could be a world first.

Prof Stephen Westaby, from the John Radcliffe Hospital, led the operation on Ioannis Manolopoulos in Greece.

He used an artificial heart to relieve Mr Manolopoulos's heart while it was injected with stem cells to help it rebuild itself.

Prof Westaby said it was thought to be the first time both had been combined.

Prof Westaby said he believed it was a world first and added nobody had published this approach before as far as he knew.

"People have used the patients' own stem cells from the bone marrow to try and improve heart function, but there's a very hostile environment in a failing heart, so 99% of the stem cells have been dying.

I believe many, many lives could be saved by these pumps in the UK
Prof Stephen Westaby

"The idea of combining a pump is to take the pressure off the wall of the heart and try and give the stem cells a better environment to grow and develop.

"I think it's very promising for the future as the patient is going well and is up and about and making good progress."

Prof Westaby said he now wanted to be able to carry out the procedure on the NHS.

"There is absolutely no reason why we can't do this procedure in Oxford, if we had funding to do it," he said.

"But essentially, I'm afraid, it's down to money.

"I believe many, many lives could be saved by these pumps in the UK."

A Department of Health spokesperson said: "Currently the NHS uses heart pumps to support patients until a donor heart becomes available for transplant. This service is called bridge to transplant.

"Before making such technology more widely available as an indefinite long-term treatment in end-stage heart failure, the NHS needs to ensure there is clear evidence of benefit.

"We will carefully consider all new evidence on heart pumps which is published."

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