Millions of heart attack patients could have their chances of survival boosted and quality of life improved when British surgeons begin their ground-breaking research next month.
During bypass operations, stem cells will be injected into the hearts of patients. The procedures will be carried out by a team at Bristol University.
Earlier this week, The Human Tissue Authority gave Raimondo Ascione, the surgeon leading the research, approval to carry out the trial.
This will be the first large-scale trial comparing patients given the treatment with those given placebo injections, and previous smaller studies have already provided hope that this approach could provide a breakthrough.
Usually because the arteries supplying the heart with blood become blocked with fatty deposits, the heart muscle is starved of oxygen and a heart attack can take place.
Scar tissue can be left behind that no longer contributes to pumping the blood around the body after a bypass operation which is designed to restore the blood supply.
The new study will test the effectiveness of stem cell injections in repairing these scars in patients who have had acute large heart attacks – in which the scarring penetrates more than halfway through the thickness of the heart wall.
Mr. Ascione said yesterday: “We expect that after six months we will have been able to reduce or even make the scars disappear completely.