Heart failure

Brits suffering from heart failure could be cured with thumb-sized plaques of cells


Nearly 1 million Britons with heart failure could be cured with thumb-sized plaques of cells that can be sewn onto their damaged organ

  • Scientists have developed a way to grow tiny amounts of heart tissue in the lab
  • They hope this will provide the very first cure for debilitating heart failure.
  • It affects nearly a million people in the UK and tens of millions around the world










Millions of heart failure patients could be cured with tiny plaques of cells that can be sewn directly onto their damaged organ.

British scientists have developed a way to grow tiny amounts of heart tissue in the lab, which can be observed “moving away” on their own in petri dishes.

The University of Cambridge team hope this will provide the first-ever cure for debilitating heart failure, which affects nearly a million people in the UK and tens of millions around the world.

The thumb-sized patches are made from stem cells, which can be grown in any type of human cell, and are constructed of tissue using tiny “scaffolds” made of the protein collagen. .

British scientists have developed a way to grow tiny amounts of heart tissue in the lab, which can be seen ‘flying off’ on their own in petri dishes.

They have been tested on rats and will soon move on to human trials which, if successful, could lead to the mass production of millions of heart patches to cure heart failure.

Professor Sanjay Sinha, who leads the pioneering research, said: “When someone has a heart attack, their heart muscle is deprived of essential nutrients and oxygen.

“We can lose a billion heart cells in a single heart attack and the human heart does not regenerate. It heals by healing. The muscle you lose never comes back.

“This means that the heart is not pumping efficiently and patients are short of breath and struggle with things they took for granted, like climbing the stairs or getting dressed.

“Of the people who develop heart failure, half will die within five years. So it is as bad as having various types of cancer.

“Right now all we can do is give them pills, but that doesn’t solve the underlying problem, which is the loss of heart muscle.

“The only real cure is a heart transplant and this country only does 200 a year. We’ve found a new solution – using the power of stem cells to repair damaged hearts – that could restore heart function and normal life. There are hundreds of thousands of people who could benefit from it. ‘

Professor Sinha said the research was “extremely exciting” and if human trials, which will monitor patients for several years, were successful, the patches could be used routinely on the NHS within 15 years.

He said: “Every time I go to the lab with my team that grows little heart spots and watch them beat, it never ceases to amaze me.

How would it change my life

Pete Robertson had recently completed an Ironman triathlon and was in better shape than ever before when he suddenly had a heart attack in November 2019

Pete Robertson had recently completed an Ironman triathlon and was in better shape than ever before when he suddenly had a heart attack in November 2019

Pete Robertson had recently completed an Ironman triathlon and was in better shape than ever before when he suddenly had a heart attack in November 2019.

The 49-year-old woke up struggling to breathe and in agony one night, but thought it was just a chest infection or muscle pain from exercise. Twelve hours later he was in the back of an ambulance and said he was having a heart attack.

The Nottinghamshire father of three said: “The damage to my heart has meant I went from being able to easily run a marathon and do triathlons to walking around the room.

“I had a hard time accepting what had happened to me. What would have been a quick 5k run took me an hour and a half to walk and I was out of breath and had to stop all the time.

Mr. Robertson now takes five types of medicine to relieve symptoms of heart failure. While he’s since returned to exercise, he says he’s having a hard time dealing with his anxiety.

Next year he will compete in the London Marathon to raise funds in hopes that a patch could one day fix his heart damage.

He added: “Whenever my chest hurts, I am terrified that it will be another heart attack. Knowing that my heart damage could be fixed with a patch would change my life both physically and mentally. L anxiety would vanish.

“We created this floating batch of beating hearts. These heart cells and little patches are like babies, they need to be fed nutrients every day.

His team’s first trials were successful and found that cells grown in the lab can be injected into damaged hearts in rats. Professor Sinha added, “The next challenge is to expand it. For the rat patch, we could use a million cells, but for the human patch, we might want 100 million cells or 500 million.

“The goal is to be able to have patches that we can sew directly onto damaged hearts when patients present for surgery. We want a production line where you can make tens of thousands of patches, and then a surgeon just takes them off the shelf and gives them to a patient.

Professor Sinha’s work is funded by the British Heart Foundation, which aims to raise an additional £ 3million for regenerative medicine research by being the Charity of the Year for the TCS London Marathon 2022. The Professor Sinha is running the marathon to help fund her own research.

Professor James Leiper, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Growing plaques of real heart tissue from stem cells may sound like science fiction, but it is at the forefront of changing research. the life that the Foundation finances. Almost a million people in the UK live with heart failure, for which there is no cure.

“Heart failure is a debilitating disease, which makes everyday tasks incredibly difficult and leads to a huge decrease in the quality of life.

“These heart patches could be a giant leap in regenerative medicine and the answer to the search for a desperately needed treatment for heart failure – offering hope to the millions of people affected.”